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At a glance: Lebanon

‘Our Voice’: UNICEF and Lebanon TV launch youth-produced series

© UNICEF/LCO/05-005/Debbas
The ‘Sawtna’ North Tripoli team – Mahmoud Halwani, Rena Rayess, Nadia Annous and Mohamad Madani – during a shoot for Lebanon’s new youth-created TV series.

By Serene Assir and Sabine Dolan

Each December, UNICEF's International Children’s Day of Broadcasting involves young people worldwide in media programming and production, giving them a chance to express their opinions on major issues and develop new skills. Here is one in a series of stories about youth media.

NEW YORK, USA, 1 December 2006 – The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) and UNICEF are showcasing the viewpoints of the country’s million-strong youth audience with a new television series called ‘Sawtna’, which means ‘Our Voice’.

‘Sawtna’ is a one-of-a-kind initiative in the Middle East. Launched on 8 November, the programme features 8- to 10-minute documentaries that address issues affecting young people in the context of the country's complex social, political and economic climate.

What makes this show special is that it is created by a team of producers between the ages of 15 and 21.

“I have found a way to express myself, fully and without any pressure of any kind,” said Farah Kobeissi, 19. “I am happy I have found a platform from which I can work without taboos or constraints,” Farah added, just hours after the first episode of ‘Sawtna’ aired on the popular LBC1 channel.

‘Across sectarian divides’

The series takes on subjects relevant to the lives of the youths who make up almost a third of the country's population – topics such as depression, smoking, globalization, mixed marriage and memories of the Lebanese civil war.

“We like to point issues out clearly and honestly, and as young people we have the capacity to do that,” said Mahmoud Halawi, 20, from the northern city of Tripoli. “Perhaps the programme itself won't change things radically, but at least it will inspire young people in Lebanon to become more self-reliant, as we have learned to be, and to believe in the importance of their own message and future.

“It's been fantastic to be able to work and become friends with young people from all over Lebanon, cutting across sectarian divides," added Mahmoud. "For us, there is nothing that distinguishes us from one another any more.”

© UNICEF/LCO/06-042/Debbas
North Tripoli producers for ‘Sawtna’ editing material for the short documentaries on topics relevant to youth that are featured on the series.

After the conflict

‘Sawtna’ is funded by the Government of the Netherlands through UNICEF.

While the project has been in preparation for two years, it was suspended over the summer due to the conflict in Lebanon. Perhaps in the aftermath of that turmoil, hearing the voices of young people has become all the more important.

“The future well-being of a country lives in its youth,” said the Netherlands Ambassador to Lebanon, Gerard J. van Epen. "I am very proud to see this unique project come to fruition in its first of many broadcasts."

For young people involved in producing ‘Sawtna’, the experience provides not only technical skills in television production and documentary filmmaking, but also genuine opportunities to build character and confidence, and to make friends.

One 18-year-old participant, Rabih Nabee from Metn, Mount Lebanon, believes the young need more opportunities to show themselves as truly responsible citizens of the future. “There is no better way than television for the adult Lebanese population to recognize the levels of maturity and social responsibility we have attained,” said Rabih.

Meaningful self-expression

The ‘Sawtna’ project was launched after a 2004 UNICEF assessment identified the need for a platform for Lebanese youth to speak out on the issues that most affect and preoccupy them. Since its premiere, the programme has aired every Wednesday and Friday on LBC1 local and satellite channels.

“This series gives viewers across Lebanon – youth and adults alike – an unprecedented opportunity to see a broad range of issues in a new way,” said the Chairman and CEO of LBC1, Sheikh Pierre Daher.

“Youth are the most vibrant members of society, and they deserve a meaningful form of self-expression to ensure that their voices are heard,” noted UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Roberto Laurenti.




1 December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on 'Sawtna', Lebanon’s new youth-produced television series.
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