Marie-Christine Saragosse, CEO of FMM: 'The RFI family is growing in Africa'
With the official launch on Thursday, January 14, of a new programme in Fulfulde, the fourth language of the African continent on RFI, and airtime doubled in Mandenkan, Radio France Internationale is developing its editorial offering in Africa.
For Marie-Christine Saragosse, president and CEO of France Médias Monde, the objective is to strengthen access to reliable and independent information in West and Central Africa.
The new services, staffed by an equal number of men and women, will broadcast for two hours daily in each language
Speaking about the launch, Ms. Saragosse said that the new services will serve about 80 million speakers of Mandenkan or Fulfulde, and offer them information in their mother tongue.
The development of the new services also reflects the thinking of RFI on its work and presence in Africa. “Those of us who are constantly working with and in Africa need to ask ourselves how we can possibly understand the continent without speaking and working in the languages that structure this continent and the cultures of this continent?” she asks.
“I think that this will offer them [the listeners] access to balanced information, which is both local and at the same time open to the world. This will really open up new horizons.
“What we have realised is that even people who speak French imperfectly, when they have listened, for example, to a news program in their mother tongue, they are [often] interested in following it up in French as well. This creates links between languages, rather than crowding them out of the way.”
The driving idea here, she added, is the desire, and even the need, to provide information that is verified, balanced, honest and independent as well as providing information that is non-partisan. This will enable and encourage dialogue, discussion and even disagreement.
The new services will be broadcast across ten countries by 28 FM transmitter with half-hourly dropouts. This means that in a French-language schedule, there will be half-hourly dropouts, sometimes in Mandenkan, sometimes in Fulfulde, depending on the zone.
There are already 125 partner radios sign-up consisting of community radio stations, radio stations from all over the zone and rural radio stations.
So, what about the problems created by plurilingualism? “I am a militant of plurilingualism and the friction of languages with each other, of bridges,” she said.
“I think that when we are stuck in a mono-linguistic approach we often run the risk of "thinking in circles".
When we work with people and other languages, it gives us a little bit of self-centredness which allows us to think a little more broadly.
“Nor do I think that languages compete with each other. I think that they enrich each other and that on the contrary, people who listen in Fulfulde or Mandenkan will understand French better. They will want to go further in French."
The flipside is also true. In the Africa editorial office, journalists will have interlocutors who will have perspectives than their own. “It is this fruitful, fertile debate which seems to me to be at the heart of the RFI project as a whole,” she added.
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