The Universidade Nacional de Timor-Leste’s (UNTL) radio station Radio Akademika is now on the air at 90.0 FM. Radio Akademika’s debut broadcast was the highlight of the signing of an agreement between UNTL and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)co-funded by USAID and AusAIDto offer a three-month pilot journalism training course starting July 1, 2008.
About 100 people attended the ceremony, including Minister of Education and Culture Dr. João Câncio Freitas, Ambassadors Hans G. Klemm of the United States, Peter Heyward of Australia, and João Nugent Ramos Pinto of Portugal.
“This is an outstanding example of cooperation between international and national institutions to strengthen a key foundation of democracythe independent media,” USAID Representative Mark White said in his remarks.
In 2001, the Portuguese government built and equipped the radio station for the university, but a series of problems kept it off the air. ICFJ returned the station to working condition as part of its agreement with UNTL. In addition, ICFJ provided new computers with internet access for the classroom adjacent to the radio station to serve as an electronic newsroom for journalism students.
The debut broadcast of Radio Akademika featured a lively round-table discussion between the guest speakers facilitated by Knight Fellow and veteran Australian radio journalist Maria Gabriela Carrascalão-Heard. The facilitator smoothly shifted between three languages–Portuguese, English and Tetum. One interesting piece of information shared by Ambassadors Klemm and Heyward during the panel discussion was that they had both been campus broadcasters in college. The diplomats encouraged the students to take full advantage of UNTL’s facilities and hone their broadcast skills.
Meanwhile, more than 50 students have signed up for the journalism course, which focuses on the management and operation of a radio station, as well as reporting for print and electronic media. The teachers’ pool includes ICFJ staff members and veteran Timor-Leste journalists who have been working with ICFJ since late 2006, as well as visiting instructors from other organizations, including the U.N.
“We are really excited about working with UNTL students,” said David A. Bloss, ICFJ Country Director. “This project came about because so many people worked together to make it happen.”