The Syrian Hour: Enhancing freedom of expression through radio

Reporter in the field polling opinions about the new electronic card distributed by WFP -  © UPP

Reporter in the field polling opinions about the new electronic card distributed by WFP - © UPP

The third season of the UNESCO radio programme “Sa’a Suriya” (“The Syrian Hour”) began this Monday, 24 February 2014. The programme is part of the UNESCO project “Sa’a Suriya: Enhancing access to information and freedom of expression for Syrian refugees in Jordan through radio programs”.

Implemented in cooperation with Un Ponte Per (NGO) and funded by the Government of Japan, Sa’a Suriya provides information to the Syrian refugee community in urban areas in the northern and central parts of Jordan. This information includes services provided by international organizations and local institutions with a special focus on services for women and youth. The programme also provides counseling and psychosocial support through a pool of experts.

Sa’a Suriya serves an immediate need for Syrian refugees in Jordan, where a high number of vulnerable Syrian women and youth have limited access to information and lack a communication platform. Moreover, humanitarian services in Jordan often lack clear and constant information dissemination procedures.

In this context, the UNESCO Office in Amman will extend its previous action targeting Syrian refugees in urban settings.

Sa’a Suriya was first launched in November 2012 as a three-month pilot project in the Irbid and Mafraq, through funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in the framework of the project “Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression: Global Action with Special Focus on the Arab Region”.

As the project proved to be very much needed by humanitarian service providers as well as by Syrian refugees, the United Nations Population Fund provided funding for a three-month extension in fall 2012.

Through funding for a one-year extension provided by the Government of Japan, UNESCO is now extending the programme in outreach and length, and therefore reaching more beneficiaries. In addition to Yarmouk FM that covers Irbid and Mafraq governorates in northern Jordan, Farah al Nas in Amman will also broadcast the bi-weekly radio programme with a reach of Amman and Zarqa governorates in central Jordan.

Each episode of the programme will cover a different topic among a variety of priorities such as Education, Health, Legal, Psychosocial, Labor, Water, and Food. Experts on the topics will be interviewed during the episodes, and Syrian refugees in host communities will participate through reportages and on-air phone calls.

On 12 February, the first phase of training was held at Yarmouk University as part of the project. The training focused on radio broadcasting techniques and targeted Jordanian youth who will be tasked with the preparation of reportages for each episode. The involvement of Jordanian youth and their interaction with Syrian refugees will further promote mutual understanding between both communities.

Another phase of training will be held at Farah Al Nas for a new group of youth, followed by a specialized training on humanized media coverage for the groups from both trainings.

Odai Gharaibeh, one of the Jordanian reporters for Sa’a Suriya trained during the second season, shared his experience. He said that the programme not only enriched his skills, but also provided him with more understanding of the situation as a whole. It also gave him the opportunity to be involved in a strong humanitarian cause.

“The primary goal of the project is to give voice to the Syrian refugee community in Jordan by providing them with a platform where they can freely access information and express themselves,” said Ma’aly Hazzaz, National Programme Officer at the UNESCO Office in Amman. “It gives those who are isolated and feel helpless the opportunity to become actively engaged, thus better able to participate in the relief operations that concern them.”

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