Many South Sudanese have little access to independent news sources but that is about to change. Patrick Leusch, head of International Cooperation, tells how DW Akademie is helping to develop the country's media sector.
What is the current media situation there? After all, the Republic of South Sudan is not even two years old.
Patrick Leusch: South Sudan is a large country with a thinly spread population and the media only has a limited reach, especially outside the capital, Juba. The media is still a very small sector with only a few newspapers and radio stations; these have a peacekeeping mandate and are heavily supported by the international community. South Sudan is just starting to develop as a country and the media is taking its first steps.
How is DW Akademie supporting media development in South Sudan?
We are involved in technical aspects and are also helping to professionalize journalists and media managers. We're building a radio station in cooperation with other partner organizations and on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The station is in Jonglei, South Sudan's largest state, and will have a public service approach. We're currently conducting audience research in Jonglei's eleven provinces, asking people how they use media, what they would like to hear and what they expect from future programming. Later on, we will provide staff training as well as consulting services for the station managers. All in all, this is quite a complex and ambitious undertaking.
In another project we're working with radio and television journalists from various parts of the country and training them in regional reporting. The plan is for their reports to be increasingly broadcast in Juba as well, so that people can hear what is happening in outlying regions.
When will the station go on air?
The new station will have full programming within a year. The programs will be transmitted from Bor, Jonglei's capital, to thirteen FM retransmission sites. This will create a radio network that will give many people access to radio for the first time. We are also involved at a political level, advising the Jonglei state government on media laws in order to strengthen the public service sector. Our activities and our approach in the whole of South Sudan is conflict sensitive: the aim is to have a stabilizing effect on society.
What are the challenges of physically building the radio station?
It is a major logistical challenge. There are few roads and many remote areas can only be reached by plane. It takes a long time to transport the equipment and when the rainy season sets in, we're not able to travel outside of Bor. The power supply is shaky and there is limited Internet access. Security is also an issue. In the past few months there have been an increasing number of clashes between farmers and cattle herders with these conflicts at times stemming from religious differences. Jonglei is the country's largest state but it is also the most unstable. The idea behind the new radio station is to help people learn more about their country and to realize that peace is possible.