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29 April 2002

Radio Sawa Delivers Arab and American Popular Music

By Vicki Silverman
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- An American visitor, who recently returned from Jordan, said he heard Radio Sawa playing in the taxicabs, fast food restaurants and in the gyms that have become a popular outlet for the young urban elite in Amman. "It sounded so good; the music is great," he told the Washington File.

Mouafac Harb, one of the principle creative forces behind Radio Sawa, says he's not surprised by this report. "Today's Arab pop music has a rock beat. When you mix Arab and Western hits they just sound so good together."

"Music is part of our format and, in radio, format is key. But 'Radio Sawa' offers a lot more," Harb told the Washington File April 27.

Greeting us in his modest office located in the U.S. government building that houses Voice of America (VOA), Harb apologized for his casual appearance. "I've been up for 24 hours," he said.

"Radio Sawa is now broadcasting the news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have our own newsroom, our own wires and our own correspondents. We're not policy makers. We're journalists," he said.

"We offer two news stops every hour, giving up-to-date, objective and accurate information. This is something new for our listeners -- fast-paced, concise news bulletins that go straight to the point," he said.

Asked why he believes this will appeal to young people in the Arab world, Harb drew on his experience to say, "There is glut of Arabic-language media outlets that cater to emotions and the sensational. Some people want the sensational, but others want to know and we're now the only station that brings you this package in Arabic, commercial-free, 24 hours a day."

Mouafac Harb, an energetic 35-year old Lebanese-American, brings considerable experience and perspective to Radio Sawa. He may be best known in the Arab world as the former Washington bureau chief for al Hayat, the Saudi-owned, Arabic language daily newspaper based in London.

He also worked for four-years at ABC's "Nightline" program, one of the most reputable in-depth television news programs in the United States. "Nightline" is remembered in the Arab world for its 1989 groundbreaking series of broadcasts of town meetings with Palestinian leaders from Jerusalem. Prior to his work at "Nightline," Harb worked in Lebanon, setting up a private television and radio station from scratch that became one of the most popular in Lebanon within two years.

This year Harb joined the team of broadcast professionals, headed by Norman Pattiz, that created "Radio Sawa," as a totally new concept, funded by the U.S. Congress, for conveying America's image to audiences aged 25 and under in the Arabic-speaking world.

There are plans to expand both the radio coverage and the news content. Harb wants to draw on his contacts in within Washington's official and press circles to produce longer news features that are of particular interest to young people in the Arab world.

As Radio Sawa's operation and programming expand, Mouafac Harb says his news focus will remain on providing information that is objective and accurate. Noting that the news operation is fully digitalized, he sees Radio Sawa "using 21st century technology to deliver the clearest, fastest audio picture of news events."

Today Radio Sawa can be heard on FM in the West Bank, Jordan (Amman - 98.1 FM), Kuwait (95.7 FM), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi - 98.7 FM), Dubai (90.5 FM), Qatar and Bahrain.

Information on Radio Sawa is available on the Internet at http://www.ibb.gov/radiosawa/. Along with Radio Sawa, this Internet site will be expanding its content and expects to offer on-line listening and inter-actives by late summer 2002.

See also:

Interview on Free Iraq TV/Radio Sawa with Mouafac Harb Secretary Colin L. Powell,  Washington, DC April 24, 2003

Radio Sawa Web Site