Syrian radio station sees rapid growth despite the conflict

As the conflict in Syria rages on, the IMS-supported Radio Rozana has against all odds managed to reach out to Syrians with reliable news and information

When the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011, an information vacuum quickly emerged when much of the country’s media was forced to close and journalists had to flee. As one of the few, Radio Rozana has worked towards filling this gap by providing Syrians with independent and reliable information in the ongoing conflict.

During the first half of 2015, the radio station experienced an increase of one million online visitors compared to the same period in 2014 – a growth of 332 per cent.

With more than four million Syrians having fled the country, Radio Rozana is faced with the challenging task of attracting a community of Syrians living in extremely harsh conditions both inside and outside Syria. With this task in mind, the station restructured its programmes towards having a stronger focus on providing reliable information for Syrians.

Radio Rozana’s edittors and management explain how their recent success is a result of the effort to broadcast and disseminate news and information with the highest levels of professionalism.

“We have seen that people want access to more reliable news and we believe it is our strong focus on news that has led to the significant increase of online visitors,” says Mais Katt, Radio Rozana’s online editor.

When Radio Rozana was launched in June 2013, it started out with 30 local journalists on the ground. Today, it has a team of 60 Syrian stringers and 20 editorial staff. It broadcasts 24/7 online and eight hours daily on FM and satellite.

Broadcasting out of Paris, Radio Rozana credits its local journalists for the success.

“One of our strengths is that we have a big network inside of Syria. We do not depend on getting news from other outlets,” says Mais Katt.

Reporting from Syria is a life-threatening endeavour for both national and international news providers. Since the conflict started, 85 journalists have been killed in Syria, according to the Committee to Project Journalists.

Online presence
In addition to reaching out to Syrians inside and outside the country, Radio Rozana also provides the international community with unique on-the-ground perspectives from inside Syria. Their website is in both Arabic and English.

With more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, social media is a crucial tool for Rozana to reach their target audience

The station was the first to interview the father of the drowned three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi in September this year, an interview that received enormous coverage in international press.

“We had 100,000 visitors for this article alone, which is a very high number for us. It was shared by a range of international media outlets,” says Mais Katt.

Inspired by that interview, Radio Rozana is now using their online channels to run a campaign in support of Syrian refugees.

“The boy’s father shared how he wished his son would be the last child killed crossing the sea. We now use our online presence to share this vision. We encourage people to find solutions from inside Syria to end the conflict,” says Mais Katt.

In addition to daily updates on Rozana’s different online platforms, several other online activities are also taking place. These include a new SEO strategy to boost its online presence, and development of a smartphone application, with which people can upload pictures and videos directly to the news outlet.

“This is part of our work towards continuously building a community of a stable audience. And to continue giving a voice to the civilians who are victims of the war.” says Mais Katt.

Radio Rozana is supported by IMS and the following partner institutions: 

International Media Support
The European Union
Open Society Foundations
Canal France International
Radio Netherlands Worldwide
Reporters Without Borders
Media in Cooperation and Transition