13 February 2017, Kigali, Rwanda – World Radio Day is a global event that is marked on 13 February every year. Following a UNESCO proposal, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed it in December 2012 to coincide with the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Radio in 1946. World Radio Day celebrates radio as a medium of communication, to improve international cooperation among broadcasters, and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information and freedom of expression.
The Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) and the Rwanda Community Radio Network (RCRN), in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), joined the rest of the world for the first time to celebrate World Radio Day. The event brought together more than 75 stakeholders from the media fraternity including representatives from private, public and community radio to raise awareness of the importance of radio and how it impacts positively on millions of lives every day.
The global theme for the 2017 edition of World Radio Day was Public participation: “Radio is You!” It is a call for greater participation by audiences and communities in the policy and planning of radio broadcasting and is meant to encourage radio stations, whether community, private, or public station, to develop the tools they need to enhance their capacity and remain effective , while also ensuring continued dialogue with the industry, its audience, and the public in general. Given the focus of this year’s theme on public participation and individual voices, it is also an appeal for enhancing the promotion of freedom of expression and the diversity of cultural expressions.
In Rwanda, where radio remains the most common form of media for communication, several activities were conducted to celebrate World Radio Day including broadcasting radio jingles over the four community radio stations and a press conference held at the Rwanda Media Commission to raise awareness of the day and culminating with the conference on 13th February 2017. The main highlight of the conference was a panel discussion on the “Role of the Radio in promoting public participation: challenges and opportunities, making reference to the UNESCO Freedom of Expression Tool Kit, which has been translated into Kinyarwanda. The panel included representatives from the public, private and community radio sectors. From the community radio sector radio managers from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda were present.
According to the UNESCO Programme Coordinator, Mr Peter Wallet, radio is important to take the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development forward. He argued, “Advancing fundamental freedoms and promoting public access to information is essential for bolstering good governance and the rule of law to deepening inclusion and dialogue. In tackling new challenges, in responding to climate change, and in countering discrimination, radio can provide an accessible and real time medium to bridge divides and strengthen dialogue.”