Journalists continue to work without pay

BY Baraka John

As the world commemorates the International Radio Day, Journalists in Western Equatoria have said thatregardless of no payment and lack of fuel to run their generators in their radio Stations they continue to inform, educate and entertain the communities.

There are seven broadcasting radio stations in Western Equatoria State,owned by the community, Church and the state government.

For instance community radio stations in Western Equatoria State depend on either collection of contributions from its community members or money collected from announcements, adverts or talk shows fees to buy 20 litters of diesel to run their stationsjust to keep their communities updated on latest development in and around their areas.In most cases some community radio stations go off air for three days or one week since they have not accumulated amount of money that is needed to run their generators and this has big setback on the community in terms of missing information.

In an interview with Juba Monitor, the Station Manager for Amadi FM 93.8 Mhz [the voice of the community] installedin October 2020 with the help of the community empowerment for progress organization [CEPO]supported by UNESCO, Eluzai Billy Samson said since the installation of the airwave last year,there are no sponsors to keep the new radio station broadcasting information to its community besides the little collection done by the community members.

“We do run this radio station based on the support of the community where they do contribute to maintain the radio on air. The community has its quarter council leaders who move from home to home collecting little money or agricultural produce, and sale it out just to raise money for the maintenance of this station on air.We also collect some revenues from advertisement and announcements. The radio was installed with solar panels but unfortunately the radio operates for 12 hours, while the solar panels run for less than 3 hour, now we are hiring a generator from one of businessmen in the town to run the radio and 20 litters for diesel here cost 10,000ssp. So this is howwe run the radio. Our staff has not received anything like salary; they are just working on voluntary basis because we are helping the community,” Billy asserted.

He stressed that meagrecontributions from the members of the community and the announcement or advert fees the station collects enable him as the station manager to give out money for soap to the volunteers just to keep them appear smart while at work, adding that as a new radio station in the Mundri, there is lack of good working relationship between the journalists there and the county authorities who do not know the role of media.

 Billy appealed towell-wishers togo to Mundri andconduct a workshop for both journalists and the authorities on the role of media.

“Amadi FM operates with fourteen journalists and covers 40km square,” he said.

However, the news editor at Maridi FM 88.9 employedin 2010 by the Maridi Service Agent, community based organization, David Diko, said it was  sometimes difficult for him to assign reporters to go and coverlocal stories because of what he termed as inconsistency of theradio on air which the reporters  feel reluctant to cover news stories.

Although most reporters at Maridi FM receive $50 per monthlyequivalent to 30,000ssp, hesaid it takes four to six months for the journalists to be paid by Maridi Service Agent who installed the airwave for the community.

He stated that Maridi FM is being run by five contracted journalists and two volunteers.

“We do get contracts directly from Maridi Service Agent but for  two years now we have not received any contract paper but we keep on working to serve our community in Maridi County because they [community] needs information in order to get informed,” he said.

Diko described therelationship between the authorities on ground and the journalists as fine, but expresses fear to send reporters far from the town to cover stories due to insecurity and safety of the reporters.

“Currently on the ground here, we do not assign our journalists to go out of the town; we mostly cover our news stories within the town. Far places like Mundri or Mvolo we make phone calls to get stories, reason is we are still having some rebel groups in the bushes and villages, you know South Sudan is not a safe place to stay and especially with journalists.  Journalists are at risk sometimes because government cannot allow us to cover technical stories that affect them. These are some of issues facing journalists down here in Maridi,” he explained.

As the world commemorated the international radio day on 13th Feb, Dikourged his fellow journalists in Western Equatoria to continue informing andeducating the greater community in the region regardless of no payment.

He calls on the government to respect and consider journalists’ safety in the Country as media play great roleof educating communities.

On addition the acting Station manager of Anisa FM 92.0 Mhz based in Yambio, owed by the Catholic Diocese of Tambura Yambio [CDTY],   Suzan Chiek said thather staff including herself have now gone for seven months without pay.

She addedthat last year the management of CDTY recruited new reporters and contracted them for 12 months, each reporter could receive $200, but she said since then only four months were paid while the rest of the six monthsare yet to be paid.

“Now with this issue of no payment some of the journalists here have deserted their profession because you know in journalism you need to at least have well fare, you need to have something that you can at least buy soap to wash your clothes so that you can go to cover story while smart and clean.You are living with family, you have to care for them and with this issue here, it is a great challenge for us the journalists”.

Suzan says, she maintains the present staff through the little collection from adverts, announcements and talk shows. “I also serve as Finance Officer; those colleaguesof mine who have conditions do come to me in the office for assistance, because whatever we are collecting is used on diesel and food to sustain the welfare of the journalists.

“ I  think if this idea was not there all of them would have left the job. There were those who were arrested for getting loans from people, we also struggle to bail them out,” Suzan explained.

She further urged the Media owners to ensure that everything isin place before they employ media personnel to run the services, citing getting a single story is not an easy task.

When asked about journalists’ safety while on duty; Suzan said that the safety of her journalists is fair because they control their tongues against what she described as hot zones.

She asked the government to ensure the freedom of expression and right to information observed in the Country.

Moses Samuel, a reporter working at State owned radio station in Yambio FM 90.0 Mhz, says since he joined the station three years ago as volunteer, he struggle on daily basis to offer his time to give service that the community in the state need.  Mr. Samuel wakes up every 6:00 Am to go for morning program [Sunrise show] that ends at 9 am besides going to the field to fetch local news stories.

Heand other 15 colleagues were recruited as volunteers over three years ago; they are being paid only1, 000ssp as incentives. According to Samuel, these allowances delayfor six to eight months.

“Now we have not received for the last one year and some months. The last time we were paid this incentive was November 2019, when we asked the state ministry of information for this little money they tell us they are working hard to employ us and fix our names on government payroll. Because of our community that is why we are still working, now if wego home the radio will automatically be shut down because most of the staff here are volunteers.”

Similar concerns were raised by journalists at Ako’o FM in Mvolo County owned by the community, Anisa FM of Maridi County owned by the Catholic Church and Centenary FM Tambura owned by diocese of Tambura, Yambio.

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