It's been more than 15 years since the conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur began, but there is no end in sight to the violence. The Sudanese government continues its attacks on local rebel groups, who accuse President Omar Al-Bashir's administration of oppressing non-Arab communities and Darfur's civilian population.

But Khartoum's ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing, mass killings and sexual violence is no longer in the international spotlight - there is a media blackout, by design. As Sudanese journalist Shammal Al-Nur explains, "Today, the government claims categorically that there's no longer a crisis in Darfur and they want to control what news sees the light from this conflict zone. Journalists are not allowed to go there and Sudanese reporters are prohibited from discussing the security situation. For the media in Sudan, the crisis in Darfur is the pivotal issue that our news outlets refrain from tackling."

But for Darfuri, accurate, unbiased information on what's happening around them can mean the difference between life and death. Which is why one news outlet has become of critical importance - Radio Dabanga.

Beaming into Sudan from 1000's of miles away in Amsterdam, Dabanga says that more than 3 million listeners tune into their programming on a daily basis. They rely on a significant network of citizen journalists and civilians on the ground in Darfur to produce their reports.

[Radio] Dabanga has become the lungs with which Sudanese people breathe, reporting on issues that are fundamental to the survival of the population.

Kamal Elsadig, Editor-in-Chief, Radio Dabanga

Kamal Elsadig is the editor in chief of the station. In Dabanga's studio in Holland, he explains that "Dabanga has become the lungs with which Sudanese people breathe, reporting on issues that are fundamental to the survival of the population. For example, when the war was raging in Darfur, we were informing people where the fighting was taking place, so they had the information on how to get to safety".

Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University. He has been studying Sudan for more than 20 years and says that Dabanga is the most important news source when it comes to establishing what's happening on the ground in Darfur. "There is no human rights reporting presence so the extraordinary network of civilians on the ground speaking directly to Radio Dabanga in Amsterdam is the base on which we know a wide range of topics in Darfur".

Hassan Berkia of the Sudanese Journalist Network ads that "while other media outlets in Sudan are censored, Dabanga's location in Amsterdam allows its journalists to report freely. The government, and its state media outlets, claim the Darfur crisis is over but Dabanga tells a different story. They report on the absence of security, the poor conditions in the camps, the number of victims. The government doesn't want that side of the crisis to come out".

Despite the critically important role that Radio Dabanga has come to play for Sudanese audiences, the station now finds its future under threat. The station relies on funding from a consortium of EU states and NGOs. But European governments and the Sudanese authorities are now working together to fight terrorism and migration, which is having an effect on the station's funding - it's drying up. This could mean that Dabanga's days are numbered.

The Listening Post's Johanna Hoes reports from Dabanga's studio in Amsterdam, on the radio station that sheds light on a region that the Sudanese government prefers to keep in the dark.

Contributors

Kamal Elsadig - editor-in-chief, Radio Dabanga
Hassan Berkia - Sudanese Journalists Network
Abdul Azim Awad - secretary general, National Council for Press and Publications
Eric Reeves - senior fellow, Harvard University & Author: 'Compromising with Evil'
Shammal Al-Nur - journalist, Al-Tayaar Newspaper

Source: Al Jazeera