I know most journalists hesitate to call their work lifesaving but I never hesitate to credit my team of radio reporters in northwest Syria with saving lives most days from their studio in Idlib, one of the last areas outside of Assad’s control.
We warn our listeners when fighter jets take off and track their routes so we can give people as much time as possible to find as safe a place as possible to hide.
But now international funding cuts will force us off air unless we are able to raise enough to keep the service going. We are determined to keep going and so would like to ask for your support.
With threats from extremists, the risk of detention and airstrikes, we’re working under incredibly difficult circumstances. But the more challenges that come our way the more determined we become.
When the extremist group Tahrir Al Sham banned the station from playing music and tried to take female reporters off air, we replaced music with animal sounds and used software to distort the voices of women on the team to make them sound only a little bit like men.
Radio Fresh is the most popular station in the northwest, where more than 3 million people now live. Almost every civilian in the province is living in fear of Assad and Russia’s next move.
What’s happened in Syria over the past seven years no history book can contain but we fear the worst is soon to come. With millions trapped with nowhere to go, the outlook is terrifying.
But I also refuse to give up on creating a new Syria, and the only way to build an accountable democracy and true freedom is through a vibrant civil society, a free and impartial media and an informed public.
The incredible Syrian humanitarian, human rights and civil society groups and individuals already exist, and are working across Idlib but in the past few months, we’ve been abandoned by the international community. One after the other countries are withdrawing funding for civil society and it’s not having an impact.
This is such a crucial time for Syria. We must tackle extremism, but this can only happen from the ground up. We need to inspire our young people to believe in a better future. We need funds from the international community to do all this important work and more.
My male and female reporters are now working for free, struggling to support their families, but dedicated to their work reporting news and stories from a part of the world where very few international reporters can reach.
We’re providing an essential service to the community – our brave reporters discuss local issues, investigate cases of injustice, and hold authorities to account – but without extra funds we’re going to be forced off air soon.
After so much success and so much heartbreak, the thought of closing the station and leaving our listeners with silence is too much to contemplate. I have a mobile transmitter ready so we can report from the fields outside the city when the bombs intensify but all I can do to keep Radio Fresh broadcasting is to ask for your help. Please give what you can.
Co-founder and Director, Radio Fresh