Community radios have become an “essential tool” in informing and engaging communities, reducing poverty and promoting good governance in rural areas, experts and community organisers said Sunday.
They made this observation at the launching ceremony of a project titled “Pioneering, Connecting and Empowering Voices for Change: Strengthening Community Radio in Bangladesh to Fight Poverty and Promote Development.”
Netherlands-based Free Press Unlimited is implementing the two-year project in collaboration with Bangladesh NGO Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) with financial assistance from the European Union.
Currently, there are a total of 14 community radio stations in the country, broadcasting about 120 hours of shows and programmes each day.
Shamsul Alam, a representative of Radio Naf99.2 which operates at Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district, explained how the radio served the local community when cyclone Mahasen was approaching the coast. “We aired weather bulletins and cyclone-specific contents for our audience for 20 hours each day, which helped effectively reduce the danger on lives and properties,” he said.
In his speech, Free Press Unlimited team leader Leon Van den Boogerd said themes that community radios cover are relevant to the daily lives of local people. This can be very effective for those living in remote, underdeveloped areas where there is little access to information.
Citing examples from Sierra Leone, DR Congo and Liberia where community radios played an important part in promoting peace and reconciliation Boogerd said radios can bridge gaps, address social problems and bring peace in society.
Addressing the function, Philippe Jacques, head of cooperation of the EU Delegation to Bangladesh, termed community radio “more dynamic” than a newspaper, saying “in radio, one can hear both noises and voices, which make the medium more authentic.”
He then lauded the journalist community of Bangladesh calling them “diverse” and “vibrant” and said the EU is keeping an eye on the media to stay abreast of the latest developments.
He also said journalists of the country continued to be “persecuted” despite their contribution to society. In the four years since the adoption of the Right to Information act, five journalists were killed and over 200 injured.
At the same time, he added, only three of the perpetrators had been tried while one convicted. “The worrying trend of impunity undermines people’s right to freedom of expression, which is a key ingredient for building a strong democratic society.”