BBG and VOA offer new options for getting the news to Mali

Washington, D.C. – Audiences in war-torn Mali will soon have new sources of reliable and up-to-date news in their own languages thanks to several innovative efforts by the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

“The BBG is responding in every possible way to the need for timely information in Mali, and we are extending our reach, as we have in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict areas,” said BBG Board member Susan McCue. “This vital service will help safeguard lives in Mali with accurate and comprehensive news, and in widely-spoken local languages as well as in French.  We’ll also soon be able to reach more people across the country through additional affiliate radio stations and via the latest mobile technology.”

“We at Voice of America are keenly aware that the people in Mali are desperate for reliable information,” said VOA Director David Ensor, an award-winning journalist who throughout his career has worked in conflict zones and seen first-hand the effect of getting accurate information to affected populations in a timely fashion. “We are using every tool we have to help our audience get the news and information they need.”

In early March, VOA will launch a Monday-through-Friday radio program in the Bambara language, which is spoken by more than two million people in south and central Mali, as well as in Burkina Faso. The half-hour program, called Mali Kura (New Mali) will focus on news of Mali, but will also cover the sub-region of Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.  It will include breaking news, analysis, discussion of extremism and health information.

VOA will continue its daily mobile newscast in the Songhai language, which was launched recently as a pilot project.  Songhai is the common language of northern Mali; some three million people speak or understand it.  The Monday-through-Friday Songhai newscast is available on the popular mobile platform, Mali1, along with French newscasts. The Mali1 mobile service was added in August to take advantage of the large and growing number of mobile phone users, and as a way to get news to regions where extremists have shut down independent media.

And VOA has just launched a new 15-minute French-language radio program that covers all the Sahelian countries of Mali, Mauretania, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and northern Sudan. The program, called Sahel Plus, provides on-the-ground reporting, analysis of the security and social issues of the Sahel, discussions of U.S. and international policy toward the region, features on the vibrant culture there, and an opportunity for listeners to speak their minds.

All VOA programs are broadcast on shortwave, medium wave, the Internet and mobile platforms. VOA programs will soon be available in Bamako, Mali’s capital, through Interactive Voice Response, a system that helps VOA distribute and gather the news using local telephone services and the Internet.  IVR is especially useful in regions where there is low bandwidth for wireless service.

The BBG announced in January that a new transmitter would allow 24/7 broadcasting of targeted news and information in French to listeners in Bamako.  And the agency is assisting a long-time affiliate station in Bamako, Radio Kledu, in building out a network of stations.  Audience research shows that more than half of all adults in Bamako listen to Kledu.  By the end of February, its signal is expected to reach four additional stations, with four more expected in the months to come. The stations will carry VOA programs in French and Bambara.

Please note: this release has been updated to reflect the correct show title, Mali Kura.

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