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Journalists and HRDs traded blame on each other due to shrinking civic space in South Sudan

Journalists and human rights defenders in the Western Equatoria state are trading accusation to each other due to shrinking civic space that does not allow them to do their work freely.

During a joint training organised by the Union of Journalists of South Sudan – UJOSS, South Sudan Human Rights Defenders’ Network – SSHRDN and Nonviolent peace forces – NP, to 25 participants comprising of journalists and members’ civil society organisations in Western Equatoria state kick off on July 04th 2023 in Yambio town.

Civil Society members accused journalists in Western Equatoria for only reporting positive stories and not holding accountable people in authority.

“men and women kills each other’s here but we are not hearing any report from journalist. It’s part of their job to hold accountable people in power using the professional ethics……do you require permission to cover some stories…… Journalists are too much work on positive stories due to negligent and fear of outcome”

On their part, Journalists retaliated by blaming the CSO for refusing to comments on sensitives issues affecting the public when contacted to balance stories as required by their ethical guidelines

“if a journalist contact you to comment on the issue affecting people in the counties, you don’t want to comment… these are the things that make our relations to be bad because you are not commenting when sensitive issues arises in our community for example during the conflict of Tombura I contacted many of you to balance my story but you declined…… “

Both CSOs and Journalists agreed that all these gaps were created by restrictions of civic space which lead to frustrations and lack of knowledge that both groups are doing one work in difference ways “In parliament, we were told to keep quite or we should be clear if we are hired by the other party to expose our activities, when we wanted to follow up the story of the money for the ministry of education” one Journalists said.

“we were warned on the case of closer of Yambio hospital when we issued a press statement. We were demoralised after that to the extent that we could not do anything anymore” a member of CSO narrated.

Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in the state believe that the joint training which is first of its kind bringing together media workers and HRDs will create lasting impact on the working relations between the two group and the stakeholders.

“ I believe our communication will be smooth after this training” another HRD added.

Ms. Gisma Juma who works for South Sudan Human rights defenders network appreciated journalists and CSOs in Western Equatoria State for coming together

“you are both doing the same work which is Do No Harm principle, if you want someone to comment on sensitive issue as a journalist please protect them. No phone call if its sensitive story please” she warned.

Ms Gisma appeal for collaboration and continues cooperation between journalists and human rights defenders network to achieve our objective “we are not against each other, we have one objective, goal and aspiration for South Sudan”

The training on conflict mitigation, rumours control and nonviolence communication strategies brought together journalists and human rights defenders to discuss issues of collaboration and cooperation to serve the public interest in the 10 counties of Weston Equatoria. It was organised by the Union of Journalists of South Sudan – UJOSS, South Sudan Human Rights Defenders’ Network – SSHRDN and Nonviolent Peace force  – NP,an international humanitarian organisation working in South Sudan.

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