The civil war in Syria has displaced more than nine million Syrians of which hundreds of thousands have fled to Jordan. A community radio station in Amman has begun addressing some of the needs of this growing refugee population.
Midday at the Balad Community radio station in Amman. Rose Nassad is hosting a program called, “Syrians Among Us.”
The station is part of a non-profit group called Community Media Network. Founder Daoud Kuttab says, as refugee numbers grew, he realized Jordan was facing a major humanitarian crisis.
“We wanted to do a program that didn’t deal with the politics of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad and the opposition. We just wanted a program that dealt with the daily needs, humanitarian, social, educational, medical and so on," said Kuttab.
The programs feature reports by Syrians trained by the station. Videos are posted on a sister web site ammannet.net. Kuttab says these have brought some previously unknown problems to the attention of Jordan's government and humanitarian officials.
Balad Radio recently began programs to counter a rise on local talk shows of angry callers accusing refugees of taking jobs, housing and services away from Jordanians.
“We wanted to let the Syrians know that this is not the case of [with] us and that we respect their presence. And we want them to feel that this is a Jordanian-Syrian program done for the Syrian population, empowering them and helping address their problems as long as they are in this difficult situation," said Kuttab.
He says the turmoil across the Middle East has brought some new media freedoms.
“Our hope is that things will not go back to the way they were before, that at least on the field of freedom-of-expression, community media, people are empowered, entitled to have a platform that they want to speak, to hear, to hold government accountable," he said.
Balad Radio is one of a growing number of non-profit stations in Jordan. Kuttab says they are popular but face two main challenges: government controls and financial sustainability.