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Voice Of America Launches Rohingya Broadcast


The Voice of America is now speaking in a new language. VOA is a worldwide radio and TV network. The U.S. government uses it to offer news and information, especially to places with limited access to information. It broadcasts in more than 40 languages. And this week, they added one more.




The announcer is speaking there in Rohingya, the language of a persecuted Muslim minority group from Myanmar. Two years ago, more than half a million Rohingya fled their homes after a military crackdown, and many are now stuck in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

GREENE: VOA director Amanda Bennett visited one of those camps last year and found refugees wanting more information.

AMANDA BENNETT: Even though they'd just been driven away from their homes, they were desperate for information. They wanted to know what was going on back in Burma, Myanmar, and they wanted to know what the international community was thinking about them. And then there were also - you know, there were real big issues about rumors sweeping the camp and not knowing what was true and what to believe.

INSKEEP: Bennett hopes the Rohingya language show, called "Lifeline," will meet the need for more information. It's airing five days per week on old-style, shortwave radio.

BENNETT: And the content is going to be a little, you know, international news and information, but then also we've hired stringers in the camp and we're going to be doing camp-based news and information. We're going to be interviewing people about the problems of their lives, the issues of their lives.

INSKEEP: Stringer, that term she used, is another word for a freelance reporter.

GREENE: And VOA Rohingya stringers are already hearing feedback on their work.

BENNETT: We've gotten an answer back from our stringers in the camp that the signal is very loud and very clear. We've gotten some response from audience members already. And what they tend to do, and I saw this in the camp myself, a group will sit around a radio and listen to it all together. And we've heard that that's starting to happen with our broadcast.

GREENE: VOA is considering similar programs targeting the world's tens of millions of refugees. The organization is piloting programs in refugee camps in Kenya now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.