Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sudan: Learning to report on aftermath of war

Source: Internews Network Inc. Press Release - Internews has stepped up preparations for local media coverage of Sudan’s first democratic elections for nearly a quarter of a century. A specialist trainer from an Internews sister program in Kenya recently led a workshop for community radio reporters in the south of the country; a region devastated by decades of war.

Mary Kiio introduced the trainees to the concept of Conflict Sensitive Journalism (CSJ). She used methodology developed for reporters covering some of the most high profile African conflicts of the last decade. Kiio’s normal duties involve training fellow journalists in Kenya to use CSJ approaches in their coverage of the political issues that sparked widespread post-election violence there in early 2008.

“The radio journalists from Malalkuon, Leer, Kauda and Turalei will have a crucial role in preparing their listeners for the Sudan elections which are due to take place in April 2010,” Kiio explained. “With long standing ethnic conflicts and an influx of independent candidates into a political arena previously dominated by the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, there is an acute need for journalists to be equipped with the ethnical and analytical skills to properly inform their audiences; the voters.”

Commentators suggest this year’s election results may also be a pointer towards the outcome of a referendum on a permanent separation of North and South Sudan which will be conducted in 2011.

The Internews CSJ approach teaches journalists to understand the deep causes and dynamics of conflict before they even think about writing a story. When they apply the CSJ principles to their work, it ensures reports are couched in conflict-sensitive language that ultimately broadens the search for solutions.

“Where is this Burunda, is it in Sudan?” a participant asked during the training. The simple answer is that it is a fictitious place created for one of the CSJ training exercises. It is a place where people during war or conflict are forced away from their homes and when they come back they find other people living in their homes claiming to be the legitimate owners. None of them have any title deeds to prove that it is their land and they eventually end up calling a mediator.

The situation was all too familiar for this particular journalist as he reflected on the after effects of the 21 years that North and South Sudan had been at war.

Internews’ programs in Sudan and Kenya are made possible by grants from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Internews is an international media development organization whose mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect, and the means to make their voices heard.

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