Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Peace journalism project to launch in South Sudan
(Juba, South Sudan)-Of all the world’s troubled places, perhaps none cries out for peace journalism more than South Sudan. That’s why my colleague and friend Gloria Laker of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa (Uganda) and I have worked so stubbornly to get a peace journalism project off the ground here.

When word of media-incited violence in South Sudan first broke in 2014, Gloria and I exchanged a flurry of emails discussing how we might launch a project in Juba, the capital. Here’s what happened two years ago, according to the Kenyan newspaper The Nation:

“South Sudan's warring parties used the media to incite tribes against each other, a report by the African Union has stated. A report by the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan shows that ‘war crimes’ were committed by both sides in the conflict.
Official t-shirt of our South Sudan PJ workshops

The document… indicates incidents where perpetrators of violence used public radio to incite the public against each other.

‘The Commission heard testimony of incitement to violence through broadcasts from Bentiu FM when it was taken over by the opposition who broadcast in Nuer exhorting Nuer men to rape Dinka women,’ the document states.

The radio station in the capital of Unity State is owned by the government but rebels allied to former Vice-President Riek Machar reportedly ejected reporters when they took control of the town, before telling the public to target Dinka women, the report states.” (October 29, 2015)

The solution, it seemed to Gloria and I, was to bring peace journalism and its emphasis on not exacerbating hate-filled, tense, and violent situations, to South Sudan.

In 2014, we designed a PJ project to address the situation here, and thought we had a local organization and funder lined up, but that fell through. Then in 2015, we’d jointly planned an extensive peace media project with a large international NGO only to see funding pulled at the last minute—just a few weeks before the project was to begin.

On our third attempt, we struck gold. Finally, we have a committed local partner, AMDISS (the Association for Media Development in South Sudan), as well as outstanding financial and logistical support from a USAID-funded development organization/project titled “Viable Support to Transition and Stability” (VISTAS).

Together with Gloria’s foundation and the Center for Global Peace Journalism which I direct, we will be presenting two peace journalism seminars for radio journalists this week and next. A special focus of these seminars will be on reconciliation, and the importance of news media, particularly radio, as a tool to help begin the healing process here in South Sudan.

I’ll be posting regular updates on the project during the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

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