The Voice of America is set to expand its radio broadcasts to Sudan. Starting Monday (September 20th), the Sudan in Focus program airs Monday through Friday from 1630 to 1700 UTC
Joan Mower, senior officer in VOA?s Office of Business Development, says VOA?s expansion of its Sudan programming reflects growing U.S. interest in southern Sudan.
?Southern Sudan right now is a critical interest of the United States and in fact the eyes of the world are on southern Sudan as they move forward with a referendum. And we want to make sure because it is a right for all free people that they receive the information they need about what?s going on in their country,? she says.
How about the possible perception that the program may encourage the break-up of Sudan? Mower says VOA does not engage in advocacy journalism. Instead, she says, it will continue to serve as the eyes and ears of the people and to provide them with news and information they can use to make decisions about their lives.
?We at VOA are very careful to remain unbiased. We have balanced coverage and that?s what we?re going to do with our news about Sudan. We?re going to be as clear and as focused on providing facts and information to the people about the historical decisions they are going to make about their country in Sudan,? she says.
The VOA official says producers of Sudan in Focus will have ?lots of interactions? with people in Sudan through daily contacts, call-in programs and town hall meetings.
John Ogulnik heads the Sudan Project.
?The focus of the program will be on southern Sudan. But everything that happens in southern Sudan in the build-up to the January 9, 2011, referendum affects the people of all of Sudan. So we have to take that into account. We?ll have input from Khartoum, we?ll be interested in events taking place in Darfur as they affect Southern Sudan -- nothing is happening in a vacuum,? he says.
Ogulnik says events in Sudan also have implications far beyond its borders -- for the Horn of Africa, the continent at large and the rest of the world.
VOA is continuing to assemble the team for the Sudan Project, Ogulnik says.
?We?re building a network of great stringers around southern Sudan and we have someone reporting for us from Khartoum. They?ll be reporting on developments from the national government, the ruling NCP (National Congress Party) and the SPLM (Southern Peoples Liberation Movement). We?re going to have reports from Nairobi, Cairo, London, wherever developments on this issue take place,? he says.
Sudan in Focus will be co-hosted by two veteran Sudanese reporters, says Ogulnik. A major thrust of the show, he says, will entail exploring the process leading to next year?s referendum and incorporating the views of ordinary Sudanese.
Senior Development Officer Joan Mower says as of now, the Sudan Project is funded for one year. She says given the major US interest about developments in Sudan, she hopes the radio initiative will be an ongoing project.
Starting September 20, Sudan in Focus airs Monday through Friday 1630-1700 UTC on the following frequencies: 9675, 12015 and 13825 kiloherz.