Refugee Radio Network: Giving Refugees a Voice

Larry Macaulay

Mainstream media have covered arrivals of migrants and refugees at the doors of Europe in different ways and from several perspectives. However some have pointed out that this kind of information has been unidirectional.

This is the reason why Refugee Radio Network was born in 2014, as one of the first refugee radios in Europe. Today it is working in partnership with various independent radio stations based in several German cities.

Prix Italia asked founder Larry Macaulay,  himself a refugee arrived in Europe from Nigeria in 2011, to explain the philosophy behind RRN.

How did the idea for Refugee Radio Network come about?

RRN was born out of the necessity to have an alternative voice to mainstream media. In 2014 news about refugees and migrants were mainly one way. Reports were not always as objective as they should be and they ended up fuelling fear within the society. So we asked ourselves, why don’t we have an alternative voice?

The initial target was to reach out to the community in Hamburg. Then we expanded to reach a wider audience. When we started, we were the only refugee radio in Germany and one of the few in Europe. Now there are many more.

What kind of stories do you focus on?

It is important for people to tell their own stories. If you want to tell a story, you have to go there and speak and engage with people.

We look at stories that affect us every day both as refugees and as citizens, such as people living in refugee camps, racism stories. For example on our first web TV show we talked about the role played by the “fear factor” when it comes to migration and then about discrimination.

These things are all there, and we have got to start talking about them.

What role can information play when it comes to integration?

At Refugee Radio Network we believe that information, communication and education are the key to have a cohesive society. Integration is not a one way process; it goes two ways and that is how we need to integrate.

Marginalization also fuels new radicalization and we have to engage through dialogue; only if we do not talk to each other then we are afraid of each other.

The response so far has been very positive, we have also held several workshops and now we have so many people creating independently radio shows for refugees.

What is your opinion of the coverage that mainstream media have done on refugees and migrants so far?

Mainstream media tend to have a bureaucratic and governmental perspective. That is why we have decided to focus on independent radios, such as community radios. We independently produce our programs and then approach these free radios. We also have been talking on mainstream media to let us work know.

However, many public broadcasters today are working on their own refugee radio projects, for example WDR or NDR. That is the right approach to have.