Determination in South Sudan

Reflection Program Manager for South Sudan

 

As a media development professional, I always tend to establish a set of problems and obstacles that a media outlet would point out as challenging to its mission. In developing countries, it is usually lack of highly trained and experienced professionals, lack of financial sustainability and restricted freedom of expression in one way or another.

After taking way too many vaccinations and funny looking pills for Malaria, I arrived on the 7th of April to Juba in South Sudan. An assessment for the media environment and the capacity of the sector was conducted based on many sources, mainly JHR’s accumulative experience in the country and the continent in general.

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Photo Credit: Grant McDonald, In-country Program Manager, South Sudan

I built my own bulk of assumptions on what information I will be receiving from experienced journalists and media developers. Almost all of the assumptions turned into complete facts. However, unexpected elements have risen and they were a complete shocker.

A very well-known South Sudanese journalist and the editor in chief of a prominent Sudanese media outlet explained to JHR what it means to suffer to secure fuel in an oil rich country. The infrequency of supplies reflects into higher prices, delaying work and increasing psychological pressure on working journalists and editors. Not to mention the lack of appropriate roads and paved streets that result in a highly expensive cost for transportation, which goes, without saying, as a main requirement for media to report and function.

The interrelation between media elements and societal, economic and even political dimensions is clear in most developing countries. Difficult living circumstances and ill governance restricts and undermines the media, which leads to uninformed public; thus, governments are not held accountable and so the cycle repeats itself until further notice. Such circumstances couldn’t be any clearer than they were in South Sudan, and so was the determination to improve these circumstances.

Although South Sudan was ranked 140th place on the freedom of speech index for 2016, according to reporters without borders, a highly prominent media figure genuinely believes that it will definitely improve. “South Sudan will be number one in media freedom,” he said; this statement, which I received as an uplifting exaggeration, was followed by a simple and yet confident smile from him. He repeated the statement; he seemed to genuinely believe that it is achievable!

I was privileged to talk to deep rooted journalists who worked for decades throughout all kinds of different challenging circumstances and yet they manage to keep on standing and doing their job. Determination mixes with a solid belief that the peaceful and democratic path for a better country will proceed.

Journalists and people from civil society organizations are united in their demand to inform the public of their personal rights, human rights, peace and democracy. It doesn’t matter what one thinks or believes is true, what matters is what the people in the middle of the conflict or struggle ask for, and when it clicks with what you are there for, then you know you are right, and you know how significant it is to make human rights universal and basic for our species around the globe, which is the core focus of reporting, the focus of any collective action to make positive and peaceful change a reality.

South Sudan and the south Sudanese people are ready to change their lives; all they need is their sisters and brothers’ support to reach their goal of prosper and progress.

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