Emmanuel Tombe: Country Director in South Sudan

Emmanuel John Tombe

I first joined JHR in January 2017, serving as the Country Director of the organization. I soon realized there were a number of factors before my hands to be sorted out within the first early months since the former Team Leader was leaving South Sudan to go back to Canada.

The first experience I had to take on was to arrange a training session for over 40 female journalists working in the country about gender reporting. The topic is very rare in South Sudan, as journalists here practise their work in general reporting without any specialized focus. But after JHR’s gender training, we started to see headlines in the news saying “Women need representation in the Country’s security Sector”. This example, among others, shows that the training was very positive for the journalists who attended and the number of gender stories produced grew and flowed around several major media institutions in the capital Juba.

Another major challenge is the nature of media in South Sudan. I had to act quickly as I came up against some individuals who were even trying to disrupt the work of JHR in South Sudan. My energy was quickly tested. One of my largest battles as a manager for JHR was to negotiate the return of one of the international trainers in order to continue the work of mentoring local journalists in Juba.

It’s been a difficult road and we are a small team running many programs within South Sudan.  But this small team has made a large impact. We have been contributing to the daily mentorship of at least 20 to 25 journalists per month for at least half a dozen local media organizations. We have also trained over one hundred journalism students in the country and are working with the University of Juba to develop a human rights journalism course as a tool that will better equip upcoming South Sudanese journalists to cover difficult, but important stories that could help affect change in their homeland.

Our team has also offered training to over 50 members of civil society organizations and at least 20 government press secretaries to better interact with media. We had a strong focus on training women-led CSOs who received training on media relations and how the media can better support the work they are doing. These trainings resulted in several CSOs forming communications departments for the first time ever. And many of our other trainees are in the process of recruiting communication officers dedicated to dealing with media relations, draft communication strategies and other types of documents relevant to media such as announcements, press release, etc.

JHR South Sudan has been operational in the country for two years now, and despite the many challenges we encounter on a daily basis, we are excited for the future.  And we look forward to more collaboration and understanding between the media, civil society organizations and the government.

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