By Atok Dan Baguoot
February 17, 2011 — Since the opening of doors of all kind of freedoms including freedom of expression as a necessity to have freedom reigns in our hearts and huts, pen-holding colleagues called journalists or public writers started exploiting the market with their abilities. We were able to be informed and inform others on what taking place within and our nearby vicinities. In this new market, both trained and untrained writers are writing but what puzzles people a lot is the quality of their writings.
Some are truly unethical. They don’t adhere to principles and good practices of career called journalism. Indeed, journalism is a very sweet but sometime become a bitter career depending on how you approach it. It is in fact an undeniable fact that most of our guys writing today in both the print and electronic media really go beyond the ethics of media in the sense that they use language that can plunge this young nation into genocide.
There are several areas in which our instincts really tell us that whatever we do don’t meet the standard of freedom of expression because we normally overdo it. In earlier 2008, the market started flooded with stories of Dinka grabbing lands in Juba, stories of certain ethnic communities rapping women at gunpoint and many other more nuisance stories of the kinds whose motives were none other than intentionally meant to portray them as negative. They are not truly stories meant for news but destruction to achieve the aims under the cover of freedom of expression.
I remember a story carried by one of the English news papers of an SPLA Dinka soldier who raped an Acholi Woman in Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria. Another story was written by a colleague of mine describing the rebel General George Athor soldiers as people from one clan or tribe as indicated by the language they used in a video cassette which was captured from Athor, after SPLA overran one of their hideouts in September last year.
Literally, the meaning of such descriptions are not meant to relay news but to inflict a direct harm on certain group of people including their innocent persons. This in fact add to none but a genocidal language crafted by media. There are several occasions in which such unprofessional descriptions have been used by media.
In the recent unfortunate incident of Pangak in Jonglei State in which forces loyal to General George Athor attacked the SPLA target, overran the civilian settlements, usage of the same language is found almost in all news papers and popular websites, use commonly by South Sudanese both inside in and the diasporas. A lot of helpless, bogus and destructive releases were in circulations and of which almost none really meant to quell the already worst situation.
While attending to a media training on conflict sensitive reporting in the Kenya’s capital Nairobi in 2010, a certain friend of mine asked a trainer if there was a single journalist whose name appeared in the yellow envelop brought to Kenya by the ICC Chief Prosecutor in the Hague, Luis Moreno Ocampo. It was a laughable question before the really names were made publicly.
Indeed, the training was mainly to tell journalists from conflicts prone zones of South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda that whatever language they use while reporting can be more worse than utterances made by loose tongue politicians. Later after the revelation of names by the ICC , a presenter was named among the politicians suspected by the ICC to borne the greatest part of the crimes committed after the Kenya’s post election violent in which more than one thousand people lost their lives and several scores wounded in addition to large numbers displaced.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was aggravated by poor handling by the media. Radio stations, TV and other media presented ethnic lines of reporting news stories. Hates and biased stories dominated the Rwanda’s public media and as a result, the magnitude of death took the shape that any of us knows very well. The worst part of our media houses in South Sudan is that, they never bother to take their reporters to refresher course or training to prepare them for daily changes in media field.
Journalism is not only knowing language or able to craft your message in English language or whatever language you use. it is a career full of don’ts than dos like religious books. In my wider reading of stories of conflicts in South Sudan, my colleagues especially the young writers are doing more harms than good to our population. Most of the stories they write imbalanced, biased, and represent a position of a certain partner whose story suits. They are full of emotions and never carried authentic facts proven. Some reporters are even public relation officers representing their senior relatives yet they claim to be writing for public when in fact they poised different stance.
Of course, readers have to believed in media regardless of the sources and quality of pieces presented to them for consumption, therefore it is upon the media practitioners to learn how to sieve off agitating particles contained by the information they intend to give out to public. The only area in which our media shows maturity is in writing defamatory stories. There are no complainants aggrieved by the writing of journalists and I think this could be the connected with the cultures of South Sudanese people which preach respect of elders and different age groups. Fellow writers, let us desist from using dangerous descriptions which can plunge our beloved country into state of anarchy without intention.
Atok Dan a resident of Juba and is reachable at [email protected] or 0955410005.