South Sudan Media Redux

South Sudan has a new name, new currency, new national anthem.

But its Fourth Estate, or media, also needs a fresh coat of paint.

The past few days has allowed me to get an idea of the challenges facing journalists in this newest of nations.

I’ve been doing some research this week for the Centre of Media and Transitional Societies (CMTS) to assess what training facilities exist for students and working journalists in South Sudan.

Turns out not a lot.

Oliver Modi of the Union of Journalists Of South Sudan (UJOSS) estimates that 90% of the journalists have no formal training and simply fell into the job because they could speak and write English.

The University of Juba offers a Communications undergraduate degree and diploma.

But the curriculum hasn’t changed since 2005, it includes irrelevant courses like Mathematics and Public Opinion, and the students are only expected to go out and actually report in year four of a five year program.

Furthermore, the university offers introductory courses in TV and radio – but without having any of the equipment.

The department’s staff has also been halved since July’s Independence Day. Four of the faculty were northerners and left fearing discrimination in the new nation.

This means that the students learn everything in theory – a hard thing to do with these two mediums.

Nhial Bol, editor of the local Citizen newspaper, confirmed that he has to personally train the ‘journalists’ on the job that they end up hiring from the University.

There is a real need for a dedicated and practical journalism training facility in South Sudan for students and working journalists alike.

Now that there’s relative stability in the country, I think it’s high time one be established.

But Juba is essentially a culture of workshops.

The efforts of varying NGOs seem well intentioned, but as Bol stated you can’t teach a career in just a week.

To muddy the waters, there are also two journalist unions in South Sudan.

UJOSS was established in 2004 and a few years later a few members unhappy with how things were being run established the SSUJ (South Sudan Union of Journalists).

Modi thought it odd that the government should be “irresponsible” in officially recognizing and registering two unions in the same field.

I asked him if he thought this was a deliberate ploy by the government to divide and conquer – to distract journalists’ attention away from issues like the establishment of a media law.

Modi simply nodded.