World Press Freedom Day: Giving Christians a voice through media

As World Press Freedom Day is marked on 3 May, we take a look at the heavy restrictions on press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and see what SAT-7 is doing to make a difference by giving local Christians a voice.

“MOST DANGEROUS REGION”

In 14 of the 25 countries where SAT-7 broadcasts across the MENA, the environment for press freedom is “very serious”, according to the World Press Freedom Index 2023.[1] Severe restrictions and penalties are imposed on those who want to publish content that challenges accepted narratives. Unsurprisingly, the MENA is known as “the world’s most dangerous region for journalists”.[2]

Media personnel in the MENA face a variety of dangers. In Iran, more than 70 journalists were arrested in the months following Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in 2022; their detention sent out the message that protests and criticism are not allowed. In many MENA countries large numbers of reporters are in prison, while in conflict zones journalists are often abducted and held hostage.

As well as facing the threat of detainment, journalists across the region must navigate heavy surveillance and a wide range of censorship techniques, including publishing bans, travel restrictions, and limitations on free speech.

When all these factors combine, media narratives can be entirely controlled by the censors, who effectively silence minority groups and exclude them from the public conversation. These restrictions only add to the isolation and rejection faced by Christians in the MENA, many of whom are also suffering various forms of religious persecution.

GIVING CHRISTIANS A VOICE

SAT-7’s programs are effecting change in the media landscape in the MENA by amplifying the voice of its Christian communities, many of which might otherwise be silenced. For example, SAT-7 PARS’ shows Signal and Insiders enable non-Christians in the Persian-speaking world to encounter Christ in the media and to learn about the transformation that He brings. Signal presents testimonies from across the region, as well as viewing current affairs and other important topics from a Christian perspective, while Insiders promotes women’s empowerment by providing a platform for the discussion of themes that are widely treated as taboo in the Iranian culture.

SAT-7’s programs also strengthen the Church in the MENA and encourage believers in their daily witness. SAT-7 supplies jobs in the media industry – the majority of SAT-7’s 260 staff are from the MENA – while also giving a platform to a wide range of musicians, preachers, and activists. Furthermore, hundreds of MENA Christians participate in our shows every year, from expert guests on set to viewers sharing testimonies on air. Their contributions enable the audience to encounter different perspectives from those of the mainstream media.

Over on SAT-7 ARABIC, talk show You Are Not Alone continues to broadcast the stories of minority groups to the Arab world, encouraging its viewers with Jesus’ message of forgiveness, love, and freedom. Its most recent series includes powerful stories from people with autism and Down’s syndrome, refugees impacted by war, children who have been bullied, and believers from the Holy Land who are praying for peace. Sirene Semerdjian, presenter of You Are Not Alone, said that SAT-7 exists to be the “voice of the voiceless”, and with her program she seeks to “raise people’s voices until something changes”.

In Turkish culture and media, Christianity is peripheral, despite the country’s wonderful biblical heritage and Christian architecture. Bible-based content is hard to come by, and believers in the country need to hear the Word of God, not only the narratives of mainstream outlets. SAT-7 TÜRK is committed to providing reliable reports on the lives and experiences of Christians in Türkiye. Its daily SAT-7 TÜRK News and weekly Worldview program help to unify the Church by covering news from different denominations in the country and globally and give it a voice in national media.

Finally, SAT-7 harnesses the power of media to stimulate an effective response to natural and human disasters in the MENA, such as the recent earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the women-led protests in Iran, or the war in the Holy Land. Our channels inform viewers of events on the ground and call them to action through prayer and – where possible – by practical help for those in need. They assure Christians of the concern and support of the worldwide Christian family, while their Viewer Support teams help to connect viewers with people who can offer them support.

In all these ways, SAT-7 provides through its satellite and digital broadcasts a platform for different perspectives that are rarely if ever heard in the mainstream media of the MENA, and overcomes many of the barriers of censorship that deny its people the opportunity to hear the Good News.


[1] Index | RSF

[2]2023 World Press Freedom Index – journalism threatened by fake content industry” | RSF

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