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Benin radio wins SRI-sponsored award

A private radio station from the West African country of Benin has won the first ever Swiss Prize for "Radios of the South," which is sponsored by Swiss Radio International. It was awarded as part of Geneva's North-South Media Festival.

A private radio station from the West African country of Benin has won the first ever Swiss Prize for "Radios of the South," which is sponsored by Swiss Radio International. It was awarded as part of Geneva's North-South Media Festival.

SRI set up the prize to award radio broadcasts from the developing world which lead to a better understanding of development issues.

The prize - SFr4,000 worth of professional training or equipment - was given to Radio Weke, for its broadcast entitled "Local television production sacrificed at the expense of foreign soap operas."

"It was a production which dealt with a development issue in an original, clear, honest and spontaneous way," the judges said. They praised the journalists who made the programme, Emmanuel Tachin and Wilfrid Adoun, for concentrating on a subject that is rarely tackled. They showed how a lack of funds was forcing state-run African television channels to buy foreign - and often western - productions, and how this was having a negative impact on national identity.

"Locally-produced programmes help people to get to know themselves and their culture better, and only by knowing themselves will they develop," the programme-makers said in their award-winning piece.

It is a theme that has been much in evidence at this week's 16th North-South Media Festival, where the emphasis is on film. Documentary makers from 35 countries will be hoping to walk off with the prestigious Geneva International Television Prize and Independent Producers' Award, which will be announced on Friday.

This year's theme is Being 20 in the year 2000, and, with many of the screenings free and in the afternoons, young people from the Geneva area have been turning out in force to see how their counterparts in the developing world live. Many of the works venture onto contentious territory - female genital mutilation, child soldiers in Liberia, the work of religious missionaries - but that is what has gained the festival its reputation.

The gathering has grown threefold since it began in 1985, and five times as many people go along to its screenings. It has become an important forum for journalists from around the globe to exchange ideas and to bring difficult issues to a wider audience.

Another prize already awarded is the Press and Democracy Prize, which is sponsored by the Tribune de Genève newspaper. It was won by the Gabonese paper, Misamu, for its efforts to defend human rights.

Its editor, Noel Ngwa Ngerma, said he would buy a computer with the SFr 4,000 prize money: "We only have one, and that one hardly ever works," he said.

Other prizes on offer this week include: the Prix de la Francophonie for the best French-language broadcast, the Pierre-Alain Donnier Award for the programme that best highlights the human dimension of development, and a Youth Award.

This year the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights - won in the past by the likes of Harry Wu and Clement Nwankwo - will be presented during the festival. The winner will receive the prize on Thursday from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

by Roy Probert


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