Fifty one journalists working for radio stations located in various states in South Sudan have been trained in conflict sensitive reporting and peace journalism from 31 January to 02 February 2017 at the Juba Regency hotel in Juba.
The training was conducted under the ‘‘Communicating with Communities’’ project being implemented in South Sudan by UNESCO and UNDP. The three day training equipped journalists with conflict sensitive reporting skills to enable them report in a manner that promotes and builds peace.
South Sudan which only got independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of an independence war still has conflicts at both national and community level.
Speaking at the opening of the training, Hon. Justine Aler De Mayen, the Under Secretary Ministry of Information, Communication, Telecommunication and Postal Services said the government supports press freedoms.
‘‘The government of South Sudan respects freedom of the press because it is this freedom that we fought for until we gained independence in 2011,’’ said Hon. Justine Aler De Mayen who added ‘‘so we have to defend press freedoms.’’
At the same event, Mr. Henric Rasbarant, Minister Counsellor, Head of Office, Embassy of Sweden in South Sudan which funds the ‘‘Communicating with Communities’’ project emphasized the importance of press freedom and its role in promoting democracy. Freedom of the press and expression is the cornerstone of democracy,’’ Mr Henric Rasbarant told participants at the training.
Echoing Mr. Rasbarant sentiments was Ms. Mwatile Ndinoshiho, Communication Specialist at UNESCO pledged her organization support and commitment to build capacity of media practitioners, to advocate for safety of journalists as well as to provide platforms for all voices to be heard. “Freedom of expression which includes press freedom is very critical in peacebuilding and reconciliation,” said Ms. Ndinoshiho
The journalists trained belong to ‘‘Radio for Peace Network’’ (RaPNET). Josephine Achiro an official of the radio correspondents’ network urged participants in the training to involve their communities in their news and programming.
‘‘The community should be part of the radio content you produce and radio should address the needs of your communities,’’ Achiro noted.
The conflict sensitive reporting training focused on guidelines for reporting conflict and peace, the importance of gender sensitivity in reporting conflicts, safety for journalists working in conflict areas and ethical guidelines for journalists covering conflicts and peacebuilding, among other topics.
At the end of the three day training, the journalists said it had helped improve their understanding of how the media can be used to promote peace.
‘‘I am a fresh graduate. But now I know how to report conflict. For example, I know that in a conflict a reporter should not only focus on parties involved in the conflict but also on solutions being proposed to address the conflict,’’ said Viola Elias, 24, a recent graduate of journalism from Uganda Christian University. Miss Elias works as a reporter with Eye Radio in Juba.
Moses Okwera Daniel, 23, a reporter with Voice of Freedom in Magwi, Imatong state said: ‘‘It was my first time to attend such a training. Now I know how to plan and conduct interviews. I have also learnt that journalists working in a conflict situation should always take safety precautions in the course of their work.’’
Journalism practitioners, trainers and scholars agree that if used in a conflict sensitive manner, the media can play an instrumental role in deescalating conflicts and building peace in conflict and post conflict situations.