Radio Sawa’s Free Zone Named a Finalist in the New York Festivals

Radio Sawa’s flagship program Free Zone was named a finalist for the New York Festivals® International Radio Program and Promotions Awards for its examination of social reform in Saudi Arabia related to child marriages and divorce due to differences in families’ status. The report was recognized in the category of human interest stories.

Almintaqa Alhurra (Arabic for “Free Zone”) frequently tackles political issues and sensitive human interest stories that are considered taboo in the Arabic-speaking radio and media sphere such as women’s rights, human rights, freedom of press, Middle Eastern government’s attempts to block blogs, religious freedom, ethnic and social inequality and honor crimes.

The first story of the celebrated two-part report features a 10-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl who were sold to well-off elderly men under the guise of marriage. Through interviews with human rights experts, academics and Islamic scholars, Almitaqa Alhurra examines the objections of Saudi jurists and religious scholars to the practice of the forced marriage of minor girls. The report also sheds light on the social repercussions of such practices.

The second story of the report features the story of Mansour and Fatima who divorced under pressure from their families due to their differing familial social status. The report examines this phenomenon in the Saudi society and shows the human suffering as a result of divorce, particularly the suffering of children. Through interviews with religious scholars, the report explores how the practice of divorce is contrary to the religious principles that govern Saudi Arabian society by highlighting the negative emotional and social ramifications of broken families who lacked the freedom and decision-making power to preserve their marriage in the face of overwhelming familial and social pressure.

The New York Festivals® Radio Program and Promotions Awards recognize “The World’s Best Work” in radio broadcasting. Now entering its 53rd year, the NYF® represents over 30 different countries making the NYF® Radio Program and Promotion Awards one of the most well known and widely respected competitions on the globe.

Recent surveys by international research companies such as ACNielsen show that Radio Sawa has an unduplicated weekly reach of an estimated 16 million adults. Radio Sawa is operated by the non-profit corporation “The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.” (MBN). MBN is financed by the U.S. Government through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency. The BBG serves oversight and as a firewall to protect the professional independence and integrity of the broadcasters.

Chams Eddin
Communications Specialist
Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.
Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa