Host of Radio Activité Antoine Lalanne-Desmet on the importance of giving refugees a voice
UNESCO is pleased to make the audio and text of this interview available copy-right free for the celebration of World Radio Day 2019. Radio stations are especially encouraged to broadcast the interview, either in its totality or by exacting the answers and announcing the questions themselves.
UNESCO had the chance to talk with Antoine Lalanne-Desmet, cultural and society journalist, at RFI (Radio France Internationale) and at RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse). He leads the Radio Activité workshops.
Q. Thank you very much Antoine for being with us today. You have founded a radio initiative for migrants entitled "Microcamp Radio", can you tell us a little about this project?
"Microcamp Radio", the idea is to go to areas where refugees are - it can be a refugee camp, community centers - and to do radio. We arrive in places, we gather people and together we created a radio show. It is the refugees themselves who create their own radio show. We give them the technical means, we do workshops, we are a facilitator (we make games, we rely a lot on popular education), and the principle is to get to a live broadcast, they are the ones who create their own radio programme.
Q. What was your motivation for producing this series / project?
There are several reasons. The first is that I find that the radio is a very good excuse to get people together. When there is a microphone, when you put people who know each other or who do not know each other around a microphone, that you put in place the means to make everyone feel comfortable, it is very beautiful thing. Also, often the issue of migration is very present in the media, however we do not hear much of the refugees speaking in their own name. With Microcamp Radio, we find this idea that people are allowed to create their own radio programme. They express themselves on the themes of their choice.
Q. Why did you prefer to use the radio as a medium rather than television for example?
The radio has a capacity of evocation which is strong enough, it makes the imagination work. In addition, it is built very easily, wherever you are you can mount a radio in a few minutes. To install a television is much more complex. There are also all these questions of anonymity. I think there are plenty of refugee people who do not necessarily want to go on TV, who do not necessarily want to see their faces.
Q. With regard to migration issues, what is the contribution of radio?
I find that the way to make things live on the radio is powerful. When you listen to a radio show, you can be immediately carried away, for all topics, whether talking about football or the issue of migration. Microcamp radio is part of an association called Radio Activity and its project is really dedicated to refugees, migrants, exiles. We decided to use the radio because in our workshops it works really well. We do a lot of workshops in refugee camps, but in reality it's very mixed. For example, we have just done a workshop in Italy with people from all over the world, people in exile, but also with Italians who have been there forever. When possible, we try to create workshops with people from different backgrounds because radio is a great excuse to meet.
Q. Since you emphasize this diversity and the importance of integrating a community spirit into your project, how do you integrate public participation in your radio project?
It is integrated in several ways. All our radios that finish our workshops are live on social networks. We have a very simple interaction, we use the comments, people can react, sometimes there are phone calls during the live shows, and sometimes it happens but more rarely that we do shows in public.
Q. I imagine that since you created Microcamp Radio you have covered a lot of topics, what example of a topic has focused on gender equality?
With Microcamp Radio we intervene in very different contexts. It happens to us to do single-sex workshops, which allows to free the speech in a different way. I have heard workshops that have raised some very interesting topics, such as the issue of access to health and the trauma of war. Especially in a camp in Iraq, there were people who came from Syria, the word is really liberated around the trauma of the war. People choose the themes themselves during the workshops so I remember once in northern Iraq, in a camp, with people who had for a lot of them flee Daesh. I remember a young girl who loved football (often considered a masculine sport, which is absurd) told us how she had done to set up a football field in the refugee camp, and how she had created a whole dynamic around her (story on our website). It was a strong moment. She managed to install a real football pitch, which was financed by international institutions.
Q. The theme of World Radio Day 2019 is Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace, what would be your message for this day?
The theme is very well chosen because the radio is an excellent excuse to make people meet. If we want tolerance, if we want peace, we need dialogue as the basis. The radio allows you to gather around a microphone with people to create something together that often emerges in sublime things. We ask questions, we think together and all of a sudden we talk about themes that we would not necessarily have spoken without the radio. My message is to encourage initiatives in this spirit. Radio is a perfect excuse to promote dialogue, tolerance and peace.
Thank you very much Antoine for your testimony and for all this information on a beautiful initiative!