In 2012, Internews Europe launched a community radio project in Ivory Coast to address the ethnic tensions that had increased since the 2011 post-electoral civil war. The project was designed to improve social cohesion by giving a voice to ordinary citizens. Internews worked with a network of eight local radio stations in the west of Ivory Coast, including Junior FM in Man.
“Before the local elections there were a lot of tensions,” said the local president of the Organization of Active Women of Ivory Coast (OFACI), one of the community leaders in the city of Man. “The radio broadcast messages from women, youth, and civil society organizations have been trying to mitigate the situation and have helped to pacify the atmosphere.”
In the past, local media were controlled by authorities, compromising the possibility of reliable independent information. During the civil war, some radio stations were destroyed. These stations are now being revived as community radio outlets by local citizens who are determined to play their part in the social cohesion process in their region.
Internews Europe built up the capacity of local journalists, including those who had no previous professional experience in the sector. More than 50 individuals were trained.
“We benefited from several trainings in journalism, learning technical skills that enabled us to improve the quality of our productions,” said a journalist from radio Bin Houyé. “The great innovation for us was the listener groups whose creation was initiated by Internews.”
Listener groups became the mediators between the local population and the radio stations. The groups encouraged radio coverage of questions related to the political and social situation, as well as foncier rural (property rights), a critical area of concern for thousands of Ivorians. The strength of the listener groups played a pivotal role in the success of the project, as they reflected the concerns and expectations of the listeners. This not only improved the quality of the radio program, but helped regain trust for local media.
Today as the project comes to a close, listener groups are committed to sustaining their radio stations by generating sources of income from agricultural activities beneficial to both them and to the radios.
“Media for all, all for Social Cohesion" was funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department and the King Baudouin Foundation.