[FoME] Publikation: UN-Peacekeeping Radios - Unexamined Past and Uncertain Future

Christoph Dietz christoph.dietz at CAMECO.ORG
Do Feb 18 15:24:45 CET 2010

Bill Orme:
Broadcasting in UN Blue - The Unexamined Past and Uncertain Future of
Peacekeeping Radio
Washington, DC: Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA),
National Endowment for Democracy (NED), 2010, 72 p.
Kostenloser Download:
Executive Summary:
For almost two decades, United Nations peacekeeping missions have
routinely set up local radio stations that almost immediately have
become the dominant national broadcasters of those post-conflict
countries. From Cambodia to Liberia, these UN stations have helped end
violent conflict and make political transition possible. They have
provided citizens with trusted local news programs and nonpartisan
discussion forums, often for the first time. The UN radio stations were
also often the first to reach all corners of these war-ravaged
countries. In national elections after peacekeeping interventions, the
UN stations were the main if not the only source of nonpartisan voter
information and campaign coverage, crucial for any functioning
democracy. And then, when the UN missions ended, the stations would
abruptly close.
The management, impact, and ultimate fate of these UN stations—a dozen
to date, five of which remain in operation in volatile African
countries—has largely escaped the notice of policymakers, including
within the UN itself. To this day, there is not even an official record
of past and present UN mission radio services.

By almost any measure—political impact, infrastructural improvement,
giving voice to dissent and minorities, raising local journalism
standards—these peacekeeping radio stations contributed more to media
development in certain post-conflict countries than any other concurrent
media assistance programs, including the many journalism-targeted
projects run through other UN bodies. But those achievements were
disappointingly ephemeral, due to a lack of both long-term UN planning
and a commitment to media development as an integral part of
post-peacekeeping democratization. The UN's radio exit strategy has
often been just to pull the plug– literally–once the Security Council
peacekeeping mandate expired, and put the broadcasting equipment back
into containers for the next mission. In Cambodia the UN station closed
weeks after the country’s 1993 elections, leaving a media vacuum that
has not been filled to this day. In East Timor in 2002, the UN station
hardware was handed over to the new government for a state broadcasting
service under direct partisan control. A repetition of either scenario
in the remaining UN radio stations would undermine long-term
nation-building efforts in Africa, where seven peacekeeping operations
now account for more than two-thirds of all UN peacekeeping spending and
personnel worldwide.
A media map of post-conflict Africa would highlight the startling yet
overlooked dominance of current UN radio operations. Start with the
contiguous West African countries—Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Sierra
Leone—that have together been a focus of international peacekeeping for
the past 10 years. The most extensive news services in all three, in
terms of listenership, geographical reach, and round-the-clock
programming, are still provided by UN-operated radio stations started on
a temporary basis as part of each respective peacekeeping mission. Move
southeast to the giant of central Africa, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, where the eight-year-old UN-maintained Radio Okapi has become the
one universal and indispensable news service for a country with almost
70 million people, volatile borders with nine countries, and the largest
peacekeeping mission in UN history. To the northeast, in Sudan, Africa’s
largest and—for diplomats and peacekeepers—most challenging country, the
UN’s Radio Miraya provides a uniquely nonpartisan service to audiences
in the formerly warring north and south, though with far more liberty in
the latter. In Sierra Leone, which now has a “peacebuilding” or
post-peacekeeping mission, the UN radio station stayed on the air due to
a unique Security Council mandate for the UN to promote “independent
public broadcasting” in the country. In December 2009 Sierra Leone’s
parliament unanimously passed a bill,
drafted with UN support, to convert the progovernment state broadcaster
into a public corporation with an autonomous board and a commitment to
editorial independence. The UN station will soon cease operations and
bequeath studios, transmitters, and start-up aid to the new Sierra Leone
Broadcasting Corporation. This is one replicable model for UN radio
transitions to local control, and merits attention at UN headquarters
and in neighboring Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire where the peacekeeping
missions and their radio services are due to wind down soon.

The UN radio services, though run quite professionally and effectively,
were created with little strategic thinking about the local media
landscape and without long-term planning for local alternatives upon
their eventual disappearance. This is not a criticism of the UN
Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which was never asked nor
equipped to be in the media development business. It is, however, a
criticism of UN peacekeeping planning, beginning with the Security
Council itself. Peacekeepers on the ground have been acutely aware of
the stations' importance to their long-term missions; surveys have
confirmed their popularity and credibility with national audiences; and
local journalists have lauded their contributions to media diversity and
journalism standards. It would be not just shortsighted but reckless for
the international 
community to let this good work go to waste and deprive the citizens of
post-conflict countries of the professional news and information
services to which they have become accustomed and now rightfully

There are a number of policy steps that would help UN radio services
fulfill UN ideals and make lasting contributions to free media in the
countries that peacekeepers are sent to stabilize. Among them:
-> The Security Council should consistently require legal and technical
facilities for UN-backed broadcasting and related digital communications
as an integral component of peacekeeping missions—and it should back up
those mandates with resources, clear policy guidance, and insistence on
local compliance.
-> The UN should draw a bright operational line between its public
relations and information apparatus and its management of broadcasters
providing news programs to local audiences.
-> The UN should approach creation of a national broadcasting service
as part of the UN's institution-building responsibilities in
post-conflict countries, much as the UN does now with support for
independent election authorities, human rights commissions, and other
autonomous democratic bodies.
-> All UN-backed local broadcasting should abide by the norms for
independent media promulgated and championed by UNESCO and relevant
regional institutions (the African Union, the Organization of American
States, the European Commission, etc.).
-> Before setting up its own radio stations, the UN should first
consider partnerships with credible and capable local media outlets,
such as nonpartisan public broadcasters or community radio networks, if
such institutions exist.
-> UN radio partnerships with nongovernmental media organizations
should be pursued systematically and transparently, including through
open bidding.
-> The UN departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Public Information
should develop and deploy an on-call roster of experienced media
managers and trainers, including through collaboration with UNESCO
(which has a mandate and expertise in media work but lacks field
resources) and UNDP (which has large field operations and a
complementary media development mandate).
-> UN peacekeeping media strategies should be shaped through dialogue
and data-sharing with local media groups and bilaterally and privately
funded media projects in countries with or targeted for peacekeeping
-> Peacekeeping radio services currently operating should begin
planning for their eventual closure and should help to build local
broadcasters that could provide similarly professional and nonpartisan
-> Wherever possible, UN missions should support the development of
local public service broadcasters with editorial autonomy and a
commitment to professional newsgathering and nonpartisanship, as an
integral part of the UN mandate to aid national transitions to
representative and responsive democratic governance.
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