Foundation Hirondelle
By : Martin Faye in Bangui
Events around the world this winter have drawn our attention to the role of independent media in crisis zones. In Central Africa Republic, Radio Ndeke Luka, an independent news and information media supported by the Swiss NGO Foundation Hirondelle, played a critical role in countering rumor with fact as armed rebel groups converged on the capital Bangui.

"A forked tongue does more harm than a stumbling foot" (African proverb)

The role of media is vital at any time, and especially during a time of crisis. A misplaced word, an ambiguous phrase, a name, a title, and anything can happen. This is the delicate situation that Foundation Hirondelle's Radio Ndeke Luka in Bangui, Central African Republic, has been facing since early December.

On December 10, 2012, a rebel coalition by the name of Seleka seized Ndele, the main town in the prefecture of Bamingui-Bangoran. What in the Central African Republic is almost an everyday event quickly grew to unpredictable proportions, as the rebels took around a dozen main towns in only three weeks. At the end of December, almost half the country was in the hands of the rebels.

As in any crisis situation, the journalists of Radio Ndeke Luka were torn between professional demands, their physical security and the duty to inform. They also had to decide "what to say" without inflaming the tensions, "how to say it", and even sometimes "when to say it", without betraying the public's right to information. They had to sharpen their sense of responsibility for the accuracy, balance, impartiality and honesty of information, and for service to the public.

The editorial team of RNL reacted with remarkable professionalism and managed to avoid all the potential traps of being manipulated by the parties. They kept the information broadcast scrupulously balanced by letting everyone's words and points of view be heard: the government, the rebels, CPJP and UFDR wings that did not support Seleka, the political opposition, civil society, and especially ordinary citizens, both in Bangui and in the rebel held regions. When the government tried to use the youth (the "young patriots") to patrol the neighborhoods, the radio put particular emphasis on the appeals for calm from the religious communities.

And the results are clear. Observers and listeners were impressed by the journalistic work of the Radio Ndeke Luka team during the one and a half months at the height of the crisis. In effect, RNL was able to cover all the events accurately, and was the only source of reliable information for Central Africans.

Radio Ndeke Luka, as an independent radio station, played a major role in the gathering and broadcast of information. It fulfilled its role: "making information accessible to populations who need it".

Hirondelle USA is a non-profit organization that supports the peaceful transformation of societies coming out of conflict or undergoing democratic change. Through our partnership with Foundation Hirondelle we bring innovative solutions to the opportunities and challenges of building public service media networks in some of the world's most vulnerable and volatile regions. By providing impartial, professional information to populations together we help renew dialogue, build peace and contribute to economic development and the emergence of democratic societies. Today, nearly 30 million people will tune into Hirondelle media for their news.

To learn more about how you can support the work of Hirondelle go to
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