Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICC: Apr/May '10

An IWPR-produced broadcast on justice issues acquires over a million listeners in Sudan and eastern Chad.
By IWPR

Listeners in Sudan have told how, after six months on air, IWPR’s radio programme on justice issues in Sudan has made a real difference to their lives.

The programme, Fi al Mizan (On the Scale), which launched in November 2009 in partnership with Press Now’s Radio Dabanga, has tackled important legal issues including insufficient procedures to prosecute rape in Sudan, legal immunity granted to government officials and ICC-related developments in the country.

The programme airs in Sudan and eastern Chad where more than a million residents, internally displaced persons, IDPs, and refugees from Darfur tune in on a weekly basis.

“All the IDPs are very happy and pleased with this programme because there are many cases of injustice that affected people’s lives and they have no way and no voice to express them and to make themselves heard,” one IDP living in Kalma camp in South Darfur told journalists working on Fi al Mizan.

“But through this programme and [the radio] now we know exactly the scale of what happened to us.”

The same IDP said the programme raised issues and prompted discussions that many victims of the conflict in Darfur are simply too scared to have. A Fi al Mizan programme broadcast in November last year discussed the problem of arbitrary arrests and detention carried out by Sudan’s security forces under the National Security Act. Rights activists and opposition politicians in Sudan have been pushing for reform of the law to bring it into line with the 2005 interim constitution.

“This programme is also important for us as we cannot tell the truth ourselves because we are afraid of being chased by security forces who can arrest us since the government doesn’t always want to hear the truth,” the IDP living in Kalma camp said. “That’s why we want you as [the programme] to be frank and disclose all the facts and tell the truth which is always difficult for us to tell.

“People will be even ashamed to speak about what happened to them in detention but if they find someone who is supporting them like this programme they will have the courage to speak.”

Special mention was also given to the three-programme series broadcast early in 2010 on prosecuting the crime of rape in Sudan. The Fi al Mizan team made a series of shows explaining what sexual violence is; how it is treated under international law and the problems encountered when prosecuting the crime locally.

Responding to the investigation legal experts said it is very difficult to get justice for sexual violence crimes in Sudan. The majority of rape cases are thrown out of court because judges say there is not enough evidence, lawyers say. Meanwhile, lawyers advising the ruling National Congress Party say the laws are sufficient and insist that rape can be adequately prosecuted.

Following the series on rape and sexual violence, a number of women called the programme asking for more coverage of the issue. One woman said that the broadcast had helped women find out how to pursue their rights if they had suffered incidences of sexual violence.

“[Women] have lost everything because of the war,” explained an IDP speaking to Fi al Mizan from Ryadh camp in El Geneina, west Darfur.

“And now when they try and go out to find food they are attacked. So this programme will offer a chance for women to raise these issues and make their voices heard, which will ultimately alleviate their pain.”

The same man said the attention afforded women by the programme was much needed as women in Darfur are much neglected in the public sphere.

“This programme gives a voice to women because women are less [often] heard in the public media. They are always the weakest people in society and they are basically the ones who suffer most as a result of the war.”

Also appreciated by listeners was the recent coverage of an alleged financial scam in El Fasher, north Darfur, known as the Mawasir market which led thousands of Darfuris to lose millions of pounds. Arrests warrants have been issued for two individuals who are accused of heading the fraud which allegedly saw customers sell goods at higher than market prices but then unable to cash the cheques they received in return.

“That [coverage] was very important because Mawasir brought a lot of troubles and created tensions among many people in Darfur,” a listener in Abu Shouk camp, north Darfur, said. “There was a good discussion about it and I thought this was a very good programme because it discussed the concerns of the people.”