Middle East & Africa
Mid East Correspondent
During the past few years, Gazans grew more dependent on these local stations, which broadcast information vital for their day-to-day life, as Shadi Eisawi, 28, a taxi driver, describes. "In the morning I always turn on the radio before I head out for my daily round to know which roads are closed and which are not. I also listen to the morning news bulletin to see where are the Israelis invading today in order to avoid these areas."However, not only taxi drivers need to know when roads are open or closed. University students, employees, travelers, international organizations ... etc. "Everybody is dependent on these stations in their lives, because they tell you when the military checkpoints are open and when the Israelis close them, as well as when Rafah border terminal closes and when it opens," said Moaweya Zahran, 55, a clerk.Indeed, local radio stations in Gaza have started competing with other news wires and satellite channels in reaching to the scene of events faster and giving a more comprehensive coverage.Majdi Al Arabeed, owner and director of the Voice of Freedom, explains that the high rating his local radio station earned stems from its objectivity. "All international news wires are governed by their editorial policies, and almost all of them are under US or Israeli influence, so they don't report everything here. However, we cover the news as they occur and without holding back from our audience."Tight Budget
Despite their success, local radios in Gaza often start and remain on a shoestring, with little income generated from commercials and program sponsorships in the shadow of the deteriorated economic situations. Al Arabeed points out that despite their hard work and his wish to give them a raise, the staff of his radio station work with low salaries, "lower than what they deserve. Some even get 700 shekels (approx. $155) per month, which is barely enough."
says.Matter of Life and Death
But in spite of the setbacks and financial difficulties, nobody in Gaza Strip can deny the vital role of local radio stations. Bashir Kafarneh is probably on top of the list, saying he owe it to these stations that his mother is among the living today.Kafarneh, 32, lives in the northern town of Beit Hanoon, which was besieged by Israeli forces many times before, the last of which was during the onslaught on northern Gaza that began on September 28.His mother suffers from a chronic heart disease, and needs her daily medicine or she might undergo fatal consequences, as he phrases it."During the last Israeli invasion, I was unable to leave my house because Israeli tanks were shooting at anyone. Many people lost their lives while attempting to leave their homes. The only way I could think of to bring the medicine to my mother is to call the emergency line of one of the radio stations. I explained my mother's condition and her need for her medicine on the air and they promised to help. In about two hours, a team from the Red Cross arrived at our house and gave us a week's supply of her medicine." "I think my mother would not have been alive today if it wasn't for that radio station," Bashir maintains.At Gaza City's main square, several taxi drivers gathered around one of the cars' radio sets, listening to a recent update on the condition of roads in Gaza Strip. Suddenly they all flinched to their cars and started their engines."The radio said they opened Abu Holi (Israeli checkpoint separating the north of Gaza from its south)," explains Abu Hadi, one of the drivers. "If they said the Israelis opened it, then they're definitely right. I need to return to my family in Rafah, which I haven't seen since the road closed three days ago."
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Yasser AbuMoailek, who is Certified Professional Translator between Arabic and English, serves as Middle East correspondent for The Seoul Times. He also work as a journalist and feature writer at the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. As a journalist he monitors the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.
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