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Radio Fresh: last independent voice broadcasting from Idlib

A mural in Kafranbel in memory of Raed Fares - 5 February 2019 (Enab Baladi)

A mural in Kafranbel in memory of Raed Fares - 5 February 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Idlib | Six years into its establishment, Radio Fresh continues to broadcast despite the difficulties and threats that come from inside and outside the province of Idlib. The radio’s resilience is based on the slogan of its late founder Raed Fares, that “revolutions are ideas and ideas cannot be killed with weapons.”

Over the year since the assassination of Fares, Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province and Fares’s hometown Kafranbel, has seen the most brutal and bloody fighting to date in Syria’s conflict.

The Syrian regime forces and its Russian allies stepped up attacks on Idlib and made significant advances. The military operations killed hundreds of people and displaced about one million people from the northern countryside of Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib to the northern countryside of Idlib, according to numbers compiled by Response Coordination Group (RCG).

The radio, established in October 2013 in Kafranbel in the southern countryside of Idlib, was struck by an explosive barrel last May. This prompted most of the radio team to move to the northern countryside of Idlib and start implementing an emergency plan.

Last voice coming from Idlib

Radio Fresh is the only radio station that broadcasts from inside Idlib province, after being subjected to repeated threats and harassment for years.

Idlib has other media offices including SY24 Women’s Media Center and a media office of Heber newspaper. In addition to these, there are media pages for the cities of Maraat al-Numan and Kafranbel, Idlib Media Center and the Ebaa news agency, affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

However, Fresh Radio, which was founded by a group of revolutionary activists, has become the sole radio bringing voices from the province of Idlib and offering a variety of programs and news coverage.

Media aspires to freedom and refuses repression

Raed Fares and his friend Hamoud Junaid were assassinated by masked men in the center of Kafranbel on 23 November 2018. Their deaths came as a shock to the activists of the Syrian uprising. Fares was well known as a leading activist and a symbol fot non-violent resistance to Syrian regime and as the mastermind of the famous Kafranbel signs. Fares never hesitated to harshly criticize the Syrian regime and its authorities as well as the militant groups.

He was committed to upholding revolutionary principles and ideals for freedom, despite threats and arrests by HTS. Moreover, the many assassination attempts did not deter him from conveying the voice of the Syrians inside and outside Idlib.

The non-violent activist, who was born in 1972, received multiple offers to leave Syria, which he refused. His refusal enhanced his social status and promoted his message within the international media outlets after his death.

Abdullah Kalido, the executive director of Radio Fresh, considers Fares to be “the mainstay of the radio’s work.” Kalido, in an interview with Enab Baladi, said that Fares’s death was not the end of the radio because “Fares created a generation of activists and media professionals who can follow his path.”

Mohammad al-Setif, one of those journalists, joined the team of Radio Fresh in 2014. He worked in the news section as an editor and broadcaster. Al-Setif worked, later, in the talk shows that handle the internal and external issues of Syrian affairs as well as issues that are “important to the audience of the Syrian revolution.”

Al-Setif, who is himself from the town of Kafranbel told Enab Baladi that he intended to “spread people’s concerns and serve the ideas of the revolution, and to actively participate in it.”

The local authorities did not pose direct threats to the radio anymore. However, Radio Fresh is going through “very difficult” conditions, according to al-Setif.

Nevertheless, the team has been working on plans to strengthen the role of women and enable civil society to understand and defend their rights and duties. According to Kalido, the continuity of Radio Fresh is his most important goal. Continuity of the radio means that “Fares defeated even his killers,” according to Kalido.

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