DRC: Radio Okapi Wins International Award

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The radio station based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has the largest Francophone audience in sub-Saharan Africa, is the winner of this year's Free Media Pioneer award bestowed by the International Press Institute (IPI), it was announced on 9th. September 2010.

Radio Okapi is a partnership between the UN mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, and the Hirondelle Foundation, a Swiss non-governmental organization (NGO).

The station first went on the air eight years ago with the aim of contributing to the consolidation of peace in the DRC through the free flow of information. It broadcasts daily in five languages, including the country's four national languages. Most of its programming is in French. Currently, an estimated one third of the DRC's population tunes in to Radio Okapi daily.

The station, said IPI Interim Director Alison Bethel McKenzie, is "a shining example not only for media in other conflict or post-conflict areas, but for radio stations around the world. Their professionalism, high standards, and courage have borne fruit - in the form of an incredible 20 million listeners."

Radio Okapi has paid a high price for its reporting. In June 2007, news editor Serge Maheshe was killed. He and his colleagues at the station's Bukavu office had received threats due to their reporting on clashes between rebels and Government forces.

The following year, Didace Namujimbo, another Radio Okapi journalist, was murdered, possibly because of his reporting on Mr. Maheshe's death and the subsequent trials.

Previous recipients of the Free Media Pioneer award include Novaya Gazeta of Russia (2009), the United States-based blog Talking Points Memo (2008), and the Mizzima News Agency of India and Myanmar (2007). This year's award will be presented at the opening ceremony of the IPI's World Congress in Vienna this month.