Report on Equatoria Regional Conference [Part Three]
By Anna Nimiriano
Dear readers of Juba Monitor, in part two, I briefed you about some points raised during Equatoria Regional conference discussions centered on individual ideas at the grassroots in three regions. In part three, I would present you some points that were demanded by the participants in the conference hall and were expected to be included in communiqué to become working document in the near future.
During the discussions, media matters and people living with disabilities were not included as points for discussions. It was realized by the members who were participants in the conference and raised as important issues to be discussed, for the reason that the two institutions were very important in Nation building.
People living with disabilities said, disability is not inability, some of them were born normal, and they became disabled in the process of doing work. For example soldiers, several of them the hands and legs were cut. It occurred during the war, when they were liberating this country. Others are blind and many forms of disability. Among them, there were educated and intellectuals that the governments should benefit from. It is not their disability but capability and presentation qualified them. Sometimes government and Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs advertise jobs given conditions that knock them out. We need government to consider them and provide appropriate jobs and environment that can accommodate them.
Their recommendation should be stated clear in the National Dialogue document. We don’t want them to be marginalized in the country. Those who are capable are to work so that at the end of the month they get salaries like any employee. In the communiqué it was recommended that there is demand for “an immediate enactment of national law that protects people with special needs and ensures they are given employment and other opportunities.”
For media in South Sudan, there was nothing that appeared in the recommendation. However, the steering committee agreed that they are going to include the recommendations of media in the communiqué. During the conference, journalists worked very hard to make people of South Sudan across the country know what was going on.
Although they were struggling to do their work, the working environment was not conducive. They face massive threats, harassments, and intimidation and are heavily censored by government authorities. The press freedom the government talks about is not practiced as expected by journalists.
Female journalists find difficulties in the field during working hours. In some situations, government officials demand sexual relations with them as condition of delivering coverage, especially when they are conducting one-on-one interviews.
They censor themselves when covering sensitive stories, sometimes government authorities give directive to journalists or editors not to publish or broadcast some stories, and if they do so, they would face whatever the authorities would impose upon them. The government deploys security personnel at the printing press to go through all contents on the templates presented by newsrooms on a daily basis.
They pluck or pull out contents deemed unfavorable to the government authorities. This happens more so when they think certain contents are against the government. In worse case scenarios the pages were printed empty, without any contents.
This has drastically affected and demoralized journalists and editors from doing their work effectively.
The biggest concern and question is the source of the law that is applicable here especially when they remove page contents from the publications. Otherwise, we need this practice to be reviewed or stopped.
The following are recommendations expected to be included in the communiqué
1- Government should make peace a priority in the country.
2- Media houses that were closed down by government should be re-opened.
3- The government should stop removing articles or stories from templates at the printer.
4- Journalists should do their work without any intimidation or harassment.
5- Harmful traditions that hinder the work of female journalists should be stopped.
6- The government should establish a Printing Press in the country to support the work of media.
7- The Media Authority should be allowed to fully exercise its mandate as contained in the constitution of South Sudan.
8- More capacity building initiatives should be given to journalists and media houses.
9- Establish a media training center or institute for journalism.
May God bless us all.