Press freedom. In many places, it is a challenge for journalists to report freely at the best of times. But when conflict or civil war breaks out, media outlets are often pressured to steer clear of reports that show the weaknesses of those in power.
In South Sudan, where an ongoing civil war threatens democracy in the world’s newest country, reporters face daily challenges to get the news out and tell important human rights stories. Recently, with support from a JHR reporting grant, Parach Mach, a young reporter with The Juba Telegraph newspaper, decided to take a bold step. Using skills he learned from JHR trainers, Parach decided to investigate the ongoing impact of South Sudan’s civil war on children. The well-balanced article exposed many troubling details, including the growing problem of child prostitution. After he filed his story, Parach was worried it would never be printed. The Juba Telegraph historically avoids controversial issues. Stories that expose the dark sides of society or expose the weakness of the government are not encouraged.
After many meetings and reviews, the editors at the Telegraph realized how many sources Parach had included in his story. His reporting gave all sides a voice – including the government – and the editors concluded there could be no possible way of the article being seen as one-sided or biased.
When the newspaper went to print, Parach’s article was the lead story in the Telegraph’s feature section. It took up almost the whole page! One story in one newspaper cannot change will not stop the war in South Sudan. But Parach’s courageousness and dedication to a strong, well balanced human rights story is an important moment of standing up to expose injustice. And it is a huge step forward for press freedom in South Sudan.