By Grant McDonald, Program Manager South Sudan
A powerful aspect of Journalists for Human Rights is instilled within its own mandate; a pointed goal to work hard enough that we are no longer needed. The strength of the organization is built on this foundation.
We work in seemingly impossible situations, places where media freedom and safety of journalists is far from guaranteed and yes, places at war.
Our team had to evacuate South Sudan when heavy fighting between government and rebel forces erupted in the capital city of Juba in July. All those involved reacted with confident, articulate and quick decisions which saw all staff safely evacuated from the country.
The JHR team has been temporarily working from Nairobi, Kenya and has seen great success. We have worked to begin establishing an annual meeting of regional media supporters, guided the creation of gender-based training materials for South Sudan, and we have even had the opportunity to hold workshops for students at Daystar University with a focus on Data journalism. All the while, assessing the situation on the ground in Juba.
With that in mind, it is now time to return.
Moments such as this test all of us. Those who support our cause, our staff and the journalists we work with.
Some may fear that the associated risk of returning simply outweighs the benefits of what JHR will continue to bring to South Sudan.
However, this moment in our organizations’ history must not be determined or guided by fear; it must instead be guided by a clear and steady vision of what we have set out to accomplish.
This is a rare opportunity to reveal the true strength and convictions of Journalists for Human Rights.
We are moving forward in South Sudan with more certainty of the necessity of our presence than ever before.
Journalists for Human Rights can be part of something much larger than itself, or its mandates. It has an opportunity to be an organic element in the continued evolution of journalism in South Sudan.
There is a lot of work to be done. We have been sidetracked, and it is going to take the efforts of everyone involved in our cause to ensure success. It is not going to be easy, it will be hard. However, very few things worth doing are easy.
Our management team will arrive first in Juba to assess the situation on the ground. Only when it is determined the security level is satisfactory will all staff be allowed to return.
Our local partners on the ground including the media houses and journalists we work with are eagerly awaiting our return.
They see in us, what we see in them; hope.