After years of civil war, hope sparks in South Sudan as erstwhile foes seek to form a unity government. This presents journalists with the new challenge of reporting on what unites people rather than tears them apart.
Manoon gains a different view of the world. If war becomes peace in South Sudan, journalism will need to change, too
As journalist Maping Manoon gets ready to head back to work at the end of a DW Akademie workshop, the young journalist says he feels better prepared to tackle what lies ahead. "I've learned completely new ways of reporting here," he says.
Manoon, who works for South Sudan Television (SSTV), is one of 13 journalists who took part in the peace journalism and conflict-sensitive reporting workshop held recently in the South Sudanese capital, Juba. Manoon says in many ways, the workshop was a revelation. He now has greater awareness of the meaning of words and the importance of using them precisely. This makes his work, he says, more professional and less vulnerable to attack. Manoon wants his reporting to help people understand what peace really means.
Showing the way to peace
Trainer Walid Dardiry says journalists in South Sudan need to take a similar approach to Manoon otherwise they will have difficulties doing their job. After all, it's just two years since the country emerged from a bloody civil war. "South Sudanese journalists are constantly under pressure from all sides," Dardiry says. "The only way they can protect themselves is by being extremely professional and being aware of what they are doing," he says. At the Juba workshop, Dardiry, who primarily works as a trainer in Arabic-speaking countries, helped Manoon and other participants produce reports. Together, the trainers and participants also explored how media workers in South Sudan can support the fragile peace process between the government and its opponents, instead of stirring hatred.
The political situation in the country is currently looking hopeful, with signs that the armed conflicts between the government and former opposition groups could soon be put to rest (as of February 2016). A unity government between the former opponents could boost the peace process, and Dardiry sees the media playing a role here. But to do this, the media will have to question its old style of reporting, he says, and adjust to a new era. Until recently, it was mainly those close to the government who had a voice in the media. But the changing political situation means in the future, journalists will be interviewing groups from across the political spectrum, Dardiry says.
Working on a new journalistic approach. Back row: Trainer Dardiry and Mysorekar, DW Akademie country coordinator
"They want to put the conflict behind them"
After the intensive days of training, the DW Akademie team is confident the workshop participants will make conflict-sensitive reporting an integral part of their work.
"You can feel they want to put the decades of conflict behind them and work towards a common future," says Dardiry. Challenges remain, however. Since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan has become one of the world’s poorest nations. The illiteracy rate is higher than 70 percent and the country has poor infrastructure. In addition, more than two million people have been internally displaced by the civil war.
"In South Sudan, people are reliant on radio to access information," says Sheila Mysorekar, country coordinator for South Sudan. For this reason, DW Akademie has been working for many years with diverse South Sudanese partners, such as the state broadcaster and commercial and community radio stations. In late 2013, DW Akademie put its South Sudan projects on hold due to political unrest. Since mid-2014, however, the capital Juba has been seen as safe enough for DW Akademie to resume its workshops there. Although other regions have also become increasingly stable since January 2016, Mysorekar emphasizes that decisions on when and where to hold additional workshops will made on a case by case assessment.
"Taking the peace process to remote regions"
If the situation in South Sudan continues to stabilize, DW Akademie and its partners will be ready to go, says Mysorekar. New workshops are on the drawing board in cooperation with UNESCO, the German development agency GIZ, local non-governmental organizations and radio stations. "With the help of journalists, our goal is to take the peace process to people in remote regions," she says.
She admits there will be logistical challenges. "There aren't enough roads or flight connections, which makes travel extremely complicated,"she says.
But the enthusiasm of the workshop participants, she adds, "will always make the journey worthwhile."