Journalism: The Most Abused Profession in South Sudan (Part 4)

Posted: June 6, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Arop Madut-Arop, Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Featured Articles, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Comparative News Analysis of Press Coverage of South Sudan’s Crisis

By Arop Madut Arop, Nairobi, Kenya

Journalism in South Sudan

June 6, 2017 (SSB) — In accordance to the established tradition of news analysis worldwide, one is expected to compare the treatment of news coverage by different newspapers or media organisations. In their analysis, experts are expected to observe biases, honesty and objectivity of the news organisations coverage of the event breaking. They are also expected to answer which of the newspapers, being analysed, give fair treatment of news that affects the majority of society in which they lived.

Equally, they are expected to strictly observe, which of the newspapers news coverage, in their judgement, is influenced by cultural, ideological or political interests. Another fact which I feel is worth taking note of has also to do with the reason why some people write opinion articles for publications in the newspapers and most recently in the social media.

Fundamentally, there are people who write with the aim to influence the corrections of the affairs in the public domain in their country. There are also some, who do write opinion articles or commentaries in effort to lobby for a cause they believe, is for public’s interests. Other rather malicious writers do so to campaign in effort to shame others or write with an aim to destroy things for their own personal glory or for the interests of their paymasters. Whichever reason, people who write, have something in mind to achieve good or bad, safer or harmful.

It will, therefore be, in this setting, that I am going to give a comparative analysis of four media organisation about their news coverage about the current grinding conflict in the South Sudan, which all the peace loving people are yearning to come to a halt sooner than later. To guide us through our analysis, it would be instructive to comment briefly by giving backgrounds of the webs that publish news about the current senseless conflict in South Sudan.

As a matter of demonstration I have selected four news media organisations namely: Gurtong Peace Trust, Sudan tribune, Radio Tamazuj and PaanLuel Wël Bloggers.

The Gurtong Peace Trust

Let us first look at Gurtong Peace Trust, its mission and objectives statement and importantly, what the word Gurtong stands for. Fundamentally, the word Gurtong, in the Nilotic language, denotes making spears blunt. It therefore goes without saying that, before any conflict erupts among the Nilotic people, spears are harpened when they would want to fight against their potential enemies.

But when peace reigns, spears are made blunt, indicating that the conflict is over; hence the spears are put beyond use. Gurtong Peace Trust was thus published by some peace lovers immediately when the peace descended on Sudan in 2005 after over five decades of destructive wars between the two regions of Sudan.

In accordance to its mission and objectives, Gurtong Trust – Peace and Media Project, is an independent, not-for-profit South Sudan project, which aims at removing all ethnic, political or personal obstacles on the way to unity, peace and mutual respect among South Sudanese. At Gurtong they use their media platforms to engage with different sections of the community both on the ground and online including the women, youth within South Sudan and in the Diaspora.

Basically Gurtong Peace Trust is built on four pillars:

Peace – Gurtong promotes peace and reconciliation for the benefit of the people of South Sudan

Information – Gurtong facilitates access to information by provision of well researched information and enlightening our audiences on governance, health, economic development, education, travel related issues.

Culture – Gurtong supports increased knowledge and celebration of the values of our cultural diversity by making available information on the different ethnic communities in South Sudan.

News and Features – Gurtong aims at providing regular and up-to-date of news and feature stories from across South Sudan.

Sudan tribune

The second news web to look at, briefly, is Sudan Tribune. But who is the publisher of Sudan Tribune? I am sorry to state that I do not know who the publishers are and hopefully I beg to be forgiven for this oversight. My Assumption is that, its publisher is a Sudanese or Sudanist (specialist) and therefore, an Arab Sudanese or of Arabised background. If so, this esteemed publisher has been expected to stick to its pledge mentioned in its field of operation which is…… ‘’portal on Sudan and neighbouring countries’’…

In accordance to that core value, Sudan Tribune would have equally been publishing the tragic news about the desperate journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. Tragically speaking, thousands of people mostly from the Arab Islamic countries, like Libya for instance, are perishing daily as they try to reach countries in Europe, whose leaders are allegedly responsible for the death of their leaders. Regrettably, Sudan Tribune does not bother to write about the death of these unfortunate innocent human beings; not even to publish news about them as a matter of courtesy.

Instead Sudan Tribune from its inception has used all its resources and energies to publish news, which are, apparently, aimed at effort to courage the escalation of the conflict, a move which disheartened the people who are expecting the curtailment of the war and restoration of peace in their conflict ridden country.

Nonetheless, one would appreciate the fact that Sudan Tribune news stories are well edited and used standard Language.  Unfortunately, it does not appear to have any knowledge about the fact that journalism is a fair play where both sides to the story are treated equally.

At best, it is assumed that, Sudan Tribune would operate in accordance to its mission and vision statement. In other words, Sudan Tribune is expected, to maintain its core values, or can one say, its sacred pledge, which the publisher claims: is to be an electronic news portal on Sudan and South Sudan and ‘’neighbouring countries’’.

Be that as it is, one would ask whether Sudan Tribune does give its readers exactly what its claims in its Mission statement. The Sudan Tribune is an electronic news portal on Sudan and South Sudan and neighbouring countries including news coverage, analyses and commentary, official reports and press releases from various organizations, and maps.

It is based in Paris, France, and run by a team of Sudanese and international editors and journalists. It is generally viewed as opposed to the current regime in Khartoum. The Sudan Tribune claims to have had over than 5 million page views in 2005 and more than 12 million page views in 2008..en.wikipedia.org · Text under CC-BY-SA license

The most recent report by Sudan Tribune has to do with the Humanitarian report about the recent fight between the warring parties in Parajok. In its report, Sudan Tribune quoted the Humanitarian correctly but at the end, reverts to its usual report and that is that, over 2,000 were crossing the border to Uganda daily.

Assuming that the area has been devastated earlier and most of them are already in the refugee camps in Uganda, and if 2,000 persons are crossing the border daily, this would mean that, within the next few weeks, to say the least, nobody would be left in Imatong state!

Equally, important to mention is that, Sudan Tribune does not recognise the 32 newly established states in the world youngest nation. What I would like to tell the Sudan Tribune management is that, if one is known by his official name and suddenly and for his/her own personal reasons, changed his name, everyone who knew him would be forced to call him by his new name.

For instance, late heavyweight champion Casious Clay changed his name to Mohamed Ali. The whole world began to call him by his new name, Mohamed Ali. Others, for a while called him Mohamed Ali, formerly known as Casious Clay. Is it not time for Sudan Tribune to call the new 32 states by their constitutional by its new name given to them?

It would be advisable for Sudan Tribune to refer each of South Sudan new states, as belonging to one of the three recognised regions of: Bahr al Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile.

Radio Tamazuj

The third media selected for our purpose here, is Radio Tamazuj website. Importantly, it would be useful to look at what the word Tamazuj stands for. According to its mission statement, the word was originally coined for the mix of cultures that span the borderlands between Sudan and South Sudan; adding that, it has developed appeal beyond its targeted areas.

According to this vision and mission, the name Radio Tamazuj, was expected to publish developmental news about the cultural relations of the peoples of the ‘’borderlands’’ that share common historical experiences, face similar ecological and economic challenges, and use a common lingua franca, Sudanese Arabic.

Indeed Radio Tamazuj took its name from this concept and in accordance to its stated mission, began as a service for the borderlands, apparently, for the then two regions of Sudan, South and the North.

Generally speaking, the word Tamazuj means microcosm in which the Arab and African cultures are said to meet and blend fluidity into one another in an atmosphere of harmony and magnanimity, quoting what the New Yorker reporter once said after visiting Abyei in 1988. It would have been in this context that the esteemed Bloggers could have been doing a wonderful job and a positive service to the Sudanese on both sides of the two Sudanese republics.

Unfortunately, from the onset, Radio Tamazuj appears to have since, deviated from its vision and mission indicated above. Instead the management of this important Blogger has concentrated all its efforts and resources to fan the war in South Sudan and to some extent war in the Sudan war ridden three regions: Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well.

In accordance to its mission Radio Tamazuj, like Gurtong Peace Trust, was expected to campaign for the restoration of peace in the two republics. It was also assumed further that, this important Bloggers intends to promote peaceful co-existence among the people of the two Sudanese republics with ultimate aim to cement the continuation of the social fabric of the people across the borders.

However, its readers, including the writer have mistakenly expected that, its news coverage would have been directed at effort to campaign vigorously in its publication as to how the cultures of the two Sudanese people on both sides of the borderlands, could have harmoniously melt into one commonality.

It was too, expected, also mistakenly, that Radio Tamazuj, as a melting pot, would use all its resources and energies in order to write about things that are aimed, at best, of cementing socio-economic development and cultural relations of all the people at the borderlands between the two republics.

On the contrary, Radio Tamazuj, ‘’cultural Melting pot’’, has been dragged knowingly or unknowingly into a politically influenced campaign to fan the war between the government of Sudan and the three regions: Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, on one hand; and between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, on the other hand. Surprisingly Radio Tamazuj appears to copy anything that Sudan Tribune has already published.

PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB)

The fourth Bloggers PaanLuel Wël; selected for our purpose, is published by a South Sudanese patriot and writer, who has been at pain trying to campaign, as demonstrated by all the articles it publishes daily about how to bring the current senseless conflict in South Sudan, to a halt. The more attractive thing which attracts many readers about PaanLuel Wël Bloggers, is the permanently, opening sentences from a renowned Czech historian and which speaks volumes about the publisher intention and motivation.

Specifically speaking, the publisher, PaanLuel Wël, is the author of a number of books. Among them: Who Killed Dr John Gearing and The Genius of John Garang. He is also a co-author of two Books: General Salva Kiir, the Joshua of South Sudan; a collection of President Salva Kiir official speeches before and after South Sudan became an independent state.

Having given brief backgrounds and the core values in which they are being published we will now turn to the main purpose of this article: comparative news coverage of the war in South Sudan. Below is the comparative analysis of the webs that I have chosen to demonstrate what I want to convey to the readers.

Comparative Analysis on the Four Social Media

The first social medium in which we shall begin our news analysis is Gurtong Peace Trust. Fundamentally, Gurtong Peace Trust medium is edited by a renowned veteran journalist; Jacob Jeiel Akol, who has been an exemplary professional journalist; both as a reporter, as newspaper editor and as a Radio journalist.

Throughout his long career, Jacob Akol has been reporting balanced reports about conflicts in the battle fields: for instance, during the Ethiopian-Eritrean war and at the battlefields during the conflict in South Sudan brought to a halt in 2005. Edited therefore, by a veteran professional journalist and a peace campaigner, Gurtong Peace Trust, has put on the top of its agenda, news coverage about: how to silence the guns, the restoration of peace and stability in South Sudan.

Consequently, Gurtong Trust has a permanent page, and video photos, that focus on the need for the attainment of Peace in South Sudan.  Thus, on daily basis, Gurtong publishes peace messages from Churches, government leaders, and from well-wishers for South Sudan.

Importantly, when Gurtong Peace Trust publishes a news story, it makes sure that, it is impartial and balanced by presenting the viewpoints of two sides involved in the story. Indeed, impartiality is the core value of sound journalism. Apart, Gurtong Trust publishes on daily basis articles about socio-economic development, cultural and sports activities in South Sudan.

In contrast, Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj webs, despite the fact that they are well written and have command of the language, they have from the onset, concentrated all their efforts and resources to fan the war in South Sudan. Equally, the two websites, were equally expected to campaign vigorously for the restoration of peace in the country. It was also assumed further that, the two webs intend to promote peaceful co-existence among the people of the two Sudanese republics with ultimate aim to cement continued social fabric of the people across their borders.

In my daily reading of Sudan Tribune, regrettably, never have I ever come across balanced news that it publishes about the war in the South Sudan. In its news coverage about the current war in South Sudan it has never directly or indirectly made appeal to the warring parties to cease fire and negotiate peace in effort to avoid the long suffering of innocent people in South Sudan.

On the contrary, Sudan Tribune covers all sensational news about the escalation of the current war in South Sudan. Worst still, this important web despite its apparent huge resources available, does not send out reporters to interview the rebel leadership and government officials in effort to enable each side to give their side of any story. Professionally, this is exactly what is expected of a news medium. Contrary to that is a sheer abuse of journalism profession.

As if it is unaware of what is called fair play, which journalism is all about, Sudan Tribune web just publishes any news item that comes to their news desk regardless of its impact and effect it will bring to bear on the civil population caught between the warring sides. Sadly to state, when there is no news breaking about the horrific killings in the current South Sudan crisis that day, for instance, Sudan Tribune makes sure that it extracts old news from their archives about the hostilities of the previous weeks or months.

One such classic recent example to quote was, when on March 26th 2017 Sudan Tribune Web published a news item about an alleged sit-in-protest against some of their country folks in Juba prison, by four Kenyans, with their Ambassador; in a would be hotel, where South Sudanese President was expected to be accommodated in Nairobi. One would like to ask the Editor of the esteemed Web, what was the wisdom behind publishing this story, which did not concern majority of the people in South Sudan?

The second news item, also published by Sudan Tribune, was about the recent tragic killing of the six aid workers between juba and Pibor. While Gurtong and PaanLuel Wël published the UN Report verbatim, as the concerned body, Sudan Tribune was quick to indicate that the six aid workers were killed, apparently by the government soldiers. It was also adopted and published the next day by its twin associate; Radio Tamazuj.

The last news which showed beyond reasonable doubt that Sudan Tribune reporting is politically influenced or have hidden agenda has to do about the recent complaint by Aguok sectional chiefs against their Governor Gregory. When Sudan Tribune reported this news item, it stated that the complaint was against President Salva Kiir brother in Law.

It would have been fair if the esteemed web has, instead mentioned that the Chiefs lodged their complaint against Gogrial Governor Hon Gregory Deng Kuac. That is a sheer bias, because the complaint has nothing to do with the President of South Sudan.

Advisably, since it appears to have leverage to both, the rebel spokesman and the government’s spokesman, one would expect Sudan Tribune to interview the two sides in any story breaking in order to give their side of the story particularly when it is a tragic incident like the story referred to above.

Needless to draw the attention of the Sudan Tribune and to a lesser extent Radio Tamazuj, that; the core issue in the practice of journalism profession, is a fair play. To publish any news that comes to their desk regardless to the impact and effect the news publish would bring to bear on the people caught between the warring parties, in my opinion, is sheer abused of journalism, as a profession.

Generally speaking, any newspaper or a journalist who does not investigate the story breaking and nonetheless publishes it, not in accordance to journalistic professional practice, could be accused of cheque book journalism! Both Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj, appear to be unaware of the fact that, journalism is equally, a service to the people.

If they intend to serve the people they should always publish peace messages like Gurtong rather than warmongering. I remain to be convinced whether the two renowned websites Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj are professional graduates from recognised renowned academic institutions.

Unless the two websites Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj change their treatment of news coverage about the war in the South Sudan, many people will take them as mouthpieces of foreign agents or friendly organisations. Otherwise one would ask, why Sudan Tribune always publishes military bulletins on behalf of the rebel military operations; when it gives unnecessary details of alleged successful operations, for instance,—our gallant forces have defeated the enemy — running away in disarray– leaving behind them their dead– so and so guns have been captured so and so military hard wares, were captured.

Understandably, this can be likened like being a military spokesman who is supposed to give his forces moral boosting. My conclusion is the fact that, without publishing sensational news, for instance, or fanning the escalation of war in South Sudan, the two webs will definitely run out of business. This is not the wish of this writer.

PaanLuel Wël website, in contrast to Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj, accepts and has been publishing all the materials that came to their news desk; and all of them; are either campaigning for peaceful resolutions of the on-going crisis; or advising, as how to end the war in the South Sudan or how to revitalise the near collapsing economy.

More importantly PaanLuel Wël publishes well written and well researched articles on socio economic development and cultural affairs which are very educative and informative as they leave long lasting impression in the minds of those who read them. Interestingly enough, PaanLuel Wël Bloggers supports what the writers have missed with satirical cartoons or sketch decorations that makes the story very entertaining and sometime very frightening.

The only point one can say about PaanLuel Wël Bloggers, which may be an oversight, is that, many of the important informative and educative articles it publishes, though fair and objective, are unnecessarily too long (like this article). With the apparent poor culture of reading in South Sudan, very few people have been able or are unable to read and understand the substance of these beautiful educative and informative articles that PaanLuel Wël does publish.

As a tradition good, educative and informative articles are published in series. This is important so as to enable readers to read them through and wait patiently for the upcoming editions in order to come up with a conclusion and impression of what the writer has written, is worth the salt.

More importantly, PaanLuel Wël Bloggers, in efforts to appear fair to everybody by accepting and publishing all the materials that come to their desk, nonetheless, does sometimes publish materials which should have been better left out or advisably, left out. The simple reason that; it may be encouraging what many of their readers consider is distasteful to their tradition and norms.

One such example is when PaanLuel Wël broke the news about the first South Sudanese gay on and off. Looking at this article many of the readers may rightly or wrongly accused this important Bloggers, as if to tell its readers that, there is nothing wrong of being a gay in South Sudan. The Blogger may wittingly or unwittingly be telling their readers to follow the example of Mach Nhiany (the last word by coincidence means rotten in Dinka language).

Unless PaanLuel Wël has different intention and that is to say–ridicule, the first ever South Sudan’s Gay published. Even this explanation would be considered unfair to ridicule the poor guy who may not be living in his home country. Another important point to point out about PaanLuel Wël Bloggers, is that it sometime exceeds its being fair when it publishes incredible stories.

What is in point here is the publication of a list of allegedly MOST CORUPT OFFICIALS IN SOUTH SUDAN. This list has been published by other media many times but failed to investigate in effort to bring to light the truth about these dangerous allegations. Because in journalism practice, news story without credible sources is a source of trouble.

However, PaanLuel Wël Bloggers, is in contrast to other social webs, backs up its stories with cartoons to reveal the truth behind the story. One of such a cartoon was about the SPLM House. The Cartoon poses a question: What is wrong with this House! The message was very clear that the cartoon was telling and entertaining.

More still, PaanLuel Wël Bloggers publishes poems that depict our cultural heritage. In brief PaanLuel Wël cartoons while they are very entertaining to some, they are very frightening to others. But that is meaning of the game.

Conclusion

In concluding the topic, journalism: the most abused profession in South Sudan, and in effort to enable colleagues in the press industry, I will attempt to suggest some possible solutions and all aimed at efforts to avoid abuse of journalism profession in South Sudan. My colleagues in the media in general and those working in newspapers organisations in South Sudan, may hopefully benefit from the following suggestions on the issues raised in this exposition.

Firstly, in order to avoid the abuse of journalism profession in our young republic, it will be advisable for the government to take up the training of journalists very seriously, putting it on the top of its priorities. It would equally be advisable for the authorities, in the ministry of information, to ask some foreign embassies as to whether they could offer scholarships for the training of journalists.

In this connection, the selection of young men and women must be made in such a way that, only those who have acumen and talent for journalism, preferably those already working in the media industry, could benefit from the scholarships that may be offered.

In effort to back up this argument, it is natural to state that, when an individual would like to cultivate, he must first look for a fertile ground; after which he could, thereafter plant his crops. In the same sense, selection for young aspiring journalists must go first to those who have acumen and talent that will enable them acquire both theoretical and practical journalistic skills without difficulties.

Secondly, it would also be advisable for practicing journalists, as individuals or as unions, not to wait but strive harder and participate in a democratic process in the management in newspapers industry in the country. Additionally journalists must not publish any information without having reliable sources otherwise they will definitely end up in the adage that, news without source is a source of trouble.

Thirdly, media houses must follow journalistic practice by appointing subeditors with a command of languages and ethics of journalism as a profession. This is important, because sometimes media publish stories with embarrassing headlines. For instance, one news medium in Juba once ran a headline, and here I quote. The body of the late Ethiopian Prime Minister flew to Addis Ababa.

Fourthly, press men and press women must stop with immediate effect, collection of second hand information from the social media. Instead media houses should send out reporters to the scene of the news breaking. They would there and then investigate and give accurate accounts of what they see physically and by giving eyewitness accounts of the actual events they are covering.

Fifthly, there is an urgent need for the amendment of the current media laws in the country in effort to regulate relations and interaction among the four set of categories that are involved in the media/press industry, namely: news makers, news organisers, news producers and news consumers.

Sixthly, there is also a pressing need, for the enactment of the official secret act and the information data base act in the country. These acts are very important because they guide the media men and women in their everyday noble practice of journalism as a profession to know and be aware of the limitations of their freedom when selecting information they would like to publish in their media.

Seventhly, news organisations, advisably, should take note of the fact that news consumers do not buy newspapers for news alone. Most of them buy newspapers because of editorial content, letters to the editor, cartoons and comical topics. Others buy newspapers to learn about update, medical health, educational, cultural and sports issues.

Eighthly, it would also be advisable for my colleagues in the media industry in South Sudan to avoid confrontation with dominant authorities but to resort to investigative journalism as a safer or smoother way for news gathering, at least for now, until our country reaches political and democratic maturity, hopefully after the restoration of peace and stability in our young republic.

Finally, my last warning has to do with the power of the PEN. Importantly, the power of the pen, sometime leads some journalists to be kingmakers. And when they fail to make kings, they would like to be kings themselves. Failure to attain any of the facts mentioned here, often times, in the process and in the course of time, become frustrated to extent that they become disgruntled with all what others do or say.

That is why there is a saying that, successful journalists or journalists who become very famous will either earns them honorary prizes for their distinguished work or end up in imprisonment! FINE

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at gotnyiel122@hotmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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