The first and second weeks of February last year were some of the busiest but exciting times in my half century of radio broadcasting career.
Communicating information to thousands of radio stations and billions of listeners in 195 member states of the United Nations as Unesco’s 2023 World Radio Day International Campaign Coordinator was a great global honor.
The countdown to D-Day had begun.
Although the actual day is commemorated on February 13 annually there is a lot of background work to be done for four months prior and another two after the date.
An advertisement for the job posted on Unesco’s several social media platforms and reposted by many other media organizations started it all.
“The whole world is applying for this job in different UN languages and I really need not bother myself?” I pondered, as I got convinced that the applications would be too many to have mine noticed and get short listed.
But after giving weight to my decades old rich, active radio and media background including discussing the advertisement with my family, I got a strong urge to go for it! In no time I was on the internet completing the long, detailed online application form and a week after the deadline I was interviewed and offered the job!
Extremely excited, I felt smoothly uplifted to cloud nine and looked forward to doing Zimbabwe and Africa proud.
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“Paris here I come!” I said to myself quietly as I read the contract stating that for two weeks during my tour of duty between September 2022 and April 2023 I would work from the Unesco Headquarters in the French capital. I had always longed to step into the city of the famous Eiffel Tower, expensive perfumes and trendy fashion rather than only ending at the airport for flight connections to other destinations. Otherwise, the rest of the work, including several meetings, radio interviews, drafting speeches, writing reports and website updating would be done online even from home in Harare.
“I take pleasure in informing you that John Masuku from Zimbabwe joins us as the 2023 World Radio Day Coordinator. He has decades of broadcast journalism experience — mainly in radio, but also including stints in television news reading, program anchoring and newspaper feature writing,” said Mirta Lourenço, chief: media development and media in emergency when introducing me to the World Radio Day Committee comprising of international radio associations and many other industry players from different continents during our first online meeting.
We discussed strategy regarding how we were going to promote the theme of Radio and Peace among radio stations. Thereafter, it was my duty to put everything into motion, of course with some hits and misses until it was clear, relevant and well-polished. In Paris I was able to go through an induction in my department and got to meet most colleagues I was going to work with and other international media gurus. The biggest load was on the website where all pages had to be updated with the year’s theme related audios, visuals and articles which I had to personally research from the rich Unesco library and archives. I compiled speeches of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and other peace orators. Also, I had to mobilise as many radio stations as possible to register on line for participation indicating what activities they were going to be undertaking on World Radio Day.
I took great pride and self-satisfaction when I was asked to draft speeches of the secretary general Audrey Azoulay and her media and communication deputy Tawfik Jelassi especially later seeing the final versions delivered on World Radio Day with only few changes and additions.
“John you have to approach six radio stations at random from all continents and arrange that they interview the assistant director general Jelassi on the theme of Radio and Peace. Remember he is a busy man!” instructed Lourenco. I did that with ease by contacting radio station managers I had never met or known but were all very helpful towards my requests. With great success some interviews were done in French, Spanish and Arabic which in addition to English, Chinese and Russian form the official working languages of the United Nations. For Africa I lined up ZBC’s Classic 263 and host Tafadzwa Bvocheko did a splendid job.
To achieve great impact, I promoted the event extensively and vigorously on almost all social media platforms available. The feedback was overwhelming and gratifying.
I interviewed United Nations staff in charge of peace-keeping radio stations including my former 1980s BBC Focus on Africa workmate, Ben Dotsei Malor from Ghana, currently based in South Sudan about how they promoted peace through the UN peacekeeping radio stations.
During after hours and over the two weekends which I had in the fragrance capital I visited as many places of interest as I could including the Zimbabwean embassy. It was a happy moment when I met Marguerite Clark my editor at Radio World and RedTech international magazines for the first time in the twenty years I have been writing articles about the radio industry
The 2024 World Radio Day theme is Radio: A century informing, entertaining and educating as I cloak fifty years of dedicated, unbroken service to Broadcast Journalism and ready to move in to the new century.
*John Masuku a veteran broadcaster and media trainer was the Unesco2023 World Radio Day Coordinator. Contact him on Email: email@example.com and X @john_masuku