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The Interactive Radio for Justice

BY Peter Richardson

The Interactive Radio for Justice (IRfJ) encouraged dialogue between communities targeted by investigations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the national and international authorities who were responsible for bringing justice to these populations.

Working mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), IRfJ used interactive local-language radio programming to trigger discussions about the purpose and impact of justice across communities who had suffered human rights abuses.

The project began in 2005 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with one of the main goals being to “create interactive conversation” between citizens and legal officials. The focus have been on regions where The International Criminal Court has been investigating serious crimes such as genocide and war crimes and the radio programs attempt to begin a dialog in order to educate communities about the justice system.

Luckily for IRFJ, the DRC had an established culture of community radio that could be tapped into for the project. In 2008 they also began work in the Central African Republic where local radio is not as obvious a tool.

In addition to producing programming, IRFJ also works to provide radios to members of the local communities in order to set up “listening groups.” That way, even if residents don’t have access to a radio, they can go to someone’s home to hear the programming. Group leaders are given radios and they establish a specific time each week that they will open their home to their neighbors in order to listen to IRfJ programming. Wanda told me that in these communities the cost of a radio may be equivalent to a month’s salary, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that it’s a luxury item for many people.

In the U.S. it’s easy to take for granted the easy access that we have to newspapers, the Internet, and television for news and information. Wanda reminds us that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the “educational system is destroyed” and there are literally grenade holes in the walls of the schools.

In addition to the radio programs that IRfJ is producing, they also did a project called Music for Justice in which the youth of Ituri were encouraged to write and create songs focused on themes of justice and peace. CDs of the music have been distributed to radio stations in the region and the songs are also played during IRfJ programming. The music was recorded in a number of languages and spans a range of genres including pop, rap, and traditional Congolese music.

The IRFJ radio programs (which can be heard on their website) tackle a range of topics, covering listener questions about laws, women’s rights, victimization, and “Rights and Legal Recourse on the Road.” Many of the questions are disturbing in that the abuses that these citizens have suffered are horrific, such as witnessing rapes and murders of family members during wartime. Even though the pain of these crimes cannot be erased, it’s reassuring that these radio programs are both giving a voice to victims and providing resources and education about their rights so that some form of justice may be served.

The project was led by Wamda Hall and supported by the MacArthur Foundation and Humanity United.

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