Media makes a difference!
JUBA, South Sudan, 19 December 2014 – How can media reduce – or escalate – conflict? What is the responsibility of journalists when there is violent conflict? How can media report on children without causing any harm? A lively two-day workshop for journalists on conflict-sensitive reporting and ethical reporting on children was one of the first activities in a multi-year partnership between the international NGO Search for Common Ground and UNICEF to promote conflict resolution.
The partnership, which is funded by USAID and entitled “Communicating for Peace in South Sudan: A Social and Behaviour Change Communication Initiative” aims to reinforce attitudes, behaviours and social norms that will encourage social cohesion and resilience against conflict. Experiences from other deeply divided societies has shown the critical role that such interventions can play by addressing fears and mistrust, managing rumours, empowering non-traditional voices for conflict prevention, and laying the groundwork for tolerance and eventual reconciliation. In addition to the workshops for journalists that will be held throughout the country, the partnership in South Sudan aims to reach 500,000 South Sudanese direct beneficiaries, particularly young people, through media broadcasts and outreach programming. Over the last two years, UNICEF has held popular workshops on ethical reporting on children, in which some 300 journalists have been trained about the importance of raising awareness about critical issues concerning children and how to report on children and children’s issues responsibly and ethically. In the face of the ongoing violence in South Sudan, UNICEF has adapted its media training workshops to include the conflict-sensitive reporting elements.
The first of the workshops was held on 18 and 19 December in Juba. Participants explored the roots and stages of conflict and how conflict can erupt into violence; the workshop included guidelines on conflict analysis, how media can avoid contributing to divisiveness and how the media can help to create an environment that will encourage peace. UNICEF took over the part of the workshop that was dedicated to the importance of covering issues surrounding children – and doing so while protecting their rights.
David Mono Danga, a journalist for South Sudan Television, said he realised it was important to avoid focusing on what ethnic group someone belonged to in covering a news story. “In South Sudan, people tend to identify very strongly with their ethnic or tribal group, but combining that with the fact that education levels have been so low here for so long and illiteracy is so high, that approach can be dangerous,” he said. “People don’t understand very easily that there are alternative ways of resolving conflict. As journalists, we should make sure our reports don’t focus on tribes or ethnic groups, and we should strive to ensure our reporting is neutral and objective.”
David was shocked to learn at the workshop that some 12,000 children are being used by armed forces and armed groups in the ongoing violence in South Sudan and understood the importance of highlighting such problems, “This is the time when South Sudan should be educating its children,” he said. “Most of our parents and grandparents did not get the chance to get schooling. We should be using the time now to educate our children so we can have a civilized future.”