By Mustapha Dumbuya , Trainer South Sudan
Late last year, a long boisterous conversation ensued in the Bakhita Radio newsroom among reporters after a disclosure by their news editor that the Catholic Radio Network (CRN) had been given an award by Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) — a leading civil society group — for CRN journalists’ role in promoting accountability in South Sudan.
The argument among the reporters that morning was about who should take credit for the award, CRN as a network or specifically the work of Bakhita Radio. The Catholic Radio Network is a key player in the media landscape in South Sudan. Based in Juba, Bakhita Radio is one of the radio stations being run by the network. The station broadcasts to a wide audience in the capital and across the country by sharing content with other radio stations under the Catholic Radio Network.
“The award must have been directly given to us at Radio Bakhita for our work,” says Lilian John, a female news presenter at Bakhita radio.
“Our colleagues at CRN also reported on this, so it’s better the award is given to all of us (CRN),” responded Damian Dogalle, producer and presenter of “Peace Forum Program.”
A third one reacted: “I think we are not working for awards here but just to report on the issues that affect people and better their lives.”.
He encouraged his colleagues to discontinue the conversation and focus on their morning story planning. “So let’s forget about this talk on who to get award and not,” he concluded.
As a JHR media trainer attached to Bakhita radio, I passively followed the debate as reporters disagreed to agree on what ought to be their journalistic mission.
I found the resolution that came out of their debate of purpose truly profound because they’re in journalism not for awards but to do stories that would positively impact the lives of their people.
On February 13 this year, another surprise came as three Bakhita radio reporters were given awards on the UNESCO-organised World Press Freedom Day in Juba, South Sudan.
Damian Doggalle was given an award for doing a weekly radio show entitled “Peace Forum,” a program that promote peace and reconciliation dialogue in South Sudan. Sarafina Paul received an award for doing an Arabic radio talk show that discusses women and gender issues. Sarafina has tackled important topics on her program ranging from women’s rights to have a fair share of property when they’re divorced to the cultural issue of how the payment of costly dowries in South Sudan can affect young people, especially women and girls. Gale Julius Dada also won an award for his wide coverage on national political and development issues as a reporter.
All three reporters received digital recorders as incentives for their hard work. They’re humbled by the recognition they’ve received for their excellent journalism.
Since starting my placement at Bakhita radio, I have supported reporters to hold regular daily editorial meetings. Such meetings are usually engaging, as journalists navigate through tough editorial issues that affect their work.
As a trainer, these meetings serve as a platform to share ideas and reinforce key messages to the reporters. Through my one-on-one trainings sessions, I worked with Sarafina, Damian and Julius on their radio shows and story ideas that have eventually led to them being recognized for their work. The thrust of my engagement with the reporters I work with lies in the maxim that audiences must be at the center of their journalism.
Our engagement has laid emphasis on not just reporting stories but also following them up to track the impact that might lead to accountability.
Consistent local media reports on stories of eligible girls who didn’t receive their Girls Education South Sudan-GESS educational grant has led the organisations to respond positively to these complains.
Bakhita radio has reported on how the current South Sudan economic challenges affect the effective implementation of this program. But certainly, CRN stations have not been the only media pushing for more accountability on the girls’ education project.
And now, about 40 girls that didn’t receive their grants last year received them after a JHR-trained reporter at the Juba Monitor newspaper brought their concerns to light.
Like the reporters I work with, I believe that the purpose of journalism must not be driven by the sole aim of winning awards. But I also do believe that when you do work hard and get recognized for your effort that will serve as an incentive to do more.