The Knight Foundation grant speaks directly to the long-held Internews tenet that information has the ability to save lives. "If the local news and information systems are working, aid will be deployed in effective ways. If they break down, aid will be wasted or stolen, so media matters as much as any issue. But because local media workers have lost family or friends in the disaster, as well as infrastructure, it can be hard work to get media systems up and running.," said Eric Newton, Vice President, Journalism Program, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The local Haitian media has the ability to provide crucial information to affected populations. Internews is deploying a team of specialists that will quickly assess media infrastructure damage and what is needed to help, particularly in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Rapid response team member, Internews' Country Director, Philippe Allouard reports that at least 12 radio stations broadcasting to the Port-au-Prince area and one national radio broadcaster are back on the air today in Haiti. In addition, Internews is bringing in a 300-watt transmitter that is expected to be able to broadcast up to 30 miles around Port-au-Prince. Internews is currently working with the French government and relief organizations to send the transmitter from Paris to Port-au-Prince through the humanitarian aid corridor.
"This is extremely important funding at a critical time," said Internews President David Hoffman. "In a humanitarian disaster, timely and reliable information lets people know where to go for food and medicine, and also how to connect with loved ones. Local media is the best conduit for that information. The Knight funding along with the support received from the MacArthur Foundation has enabled us to respond immediately."
Internews is also attempting to contact the 41-member network of community radio stations, RAMAK, with whom it has worked in the past in order to assess not only their safety, but also the state of their station's infrastructure and broadcasting capabilities. One station has responded that the "situation is unimaginable and worse than anyone can predict." Internews will continue to provide updates on the operational status of Haiti's media as it becomes available.