South Sudan’s Young Reporters Independence Day Exhibit Displays True Promise

Rebecca Yar Achiek showing off one of her photos

Mingkaman Young Reporter, Rebecca Yar Achiek, proudly displays one of her photos at the Independence Day exhibit.

MINGKAMAN, South Sudan – To celebrate July 9, South Sudan’s fifth independence anniversary, Internews hosted a multimedia exhibit featuring photographs and audio produced by Mingkaman Young Reporters.

This is a group of youth from Mingkaman, Awerial County I had trained last January on the basics of photography and radio. The Mingkaman 100 FM journalism trainer, Tanya Birkbeck, asked a local women’s cooperative and the ACTED camp management agency if we could use their Site Two Community Centre, to hold the event.

July 7, the evening before I departed Juba, things took a turn for the worse. A shootout at a checkpoint between government soldiers and opposition forces, stationed in Juba as part of the August peace agreement, put all out war back on the table. The peace agreement was shelved.

An Internews driver took me, and two others, to the Juba airport the morning of July 8. He decided to drive past J1, South Sudan’s state house. Soldiers stepped out on to the road and ordered us to stop. They allowed us to leave after questioning, but I could see in their eyes they were preparing for the worst.

I arrived in Mingkaman later that morning to reunite with Tanya and the Mingkaman 100 FM team. In the afternoon, factional fighting broke out at state house, while both President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar were inside. Neither of them knew what was going on outside and admitted this in a joint press conference.

Juba turned into a war zone. Mingkaman 100 FM intern, Young Juma, was first to the radio studio Saturday morning, July 9, South Sudan’s independence day. Like most of us, he was unsure of what had happened the previous day in the capital.

Women notice someone they know at exhibit

A woman living in Site Two points to someone she knows featured in a photo on display at the exhibit.

The Mingkaman Young Reporters exhibit was set to begin in the afternoon, after Tanya helped Young Juma prepare a news report that would inform the public without the need for rumour or speculation. Calls for peace across South Sudan were immediately put on the air.

At Site Two Community Centre, Mingkaman Young Reporters arrived to see their photos on display and one brought family members and friends to show off her work.

Rebecca Yar Achiek, 19, was happy to see her two photos on display at the centre. She already knew these photos had been selected earlier this year to be included in the Juba Photo Contest, hosted by the University of Juba’s French Institute, but this was the first time they were on display in her community.

I selected 15 of the best photos taken by the Young Reporters last January. The theme of this exhibit was displaced women and children, as there were many portraits showing the beauty and strength of those living in Awerial County, a safe haven for those fleeing violence in neighbouring Jonglei state.

I played the role of museum curator and walked visitors around to view each photo and listen to the Young Reporters’ radio work, recorded in Site Two, one of Mingkaman’s largest settlements for displaced people.

Back at Mingkaman FM, Young Juma kept reporting responsibly. Local radio journalist, Deng Daniel, attended the exhibit and did a live report from Site Two Community Centre with Young Juma in-studio, a first for the station.

Achiek went on live to express her gratitude to Internews and called on Mingkaman youth to attend the community’s first-ever exhibit.

Dozens of young boys and girls, along with women, came to the Site Two Community Centre to see what was happening inside. One woman pointed at a photo and told me she knew the lady featured.

Adam and kids

Mingkaman children gather as I play the Young Reporters’ audio recordings from my laptop on to a speaker in the room (Courtesy of Tanya Birkbeck).

I was excited that local youth, seeing these photos and hearing the recordings for the first time in their lives, would go home to tell their friends, family and neighbours about the experience.

The Mingkaman Young Reporters multimedia exhibit was my way of giving back to a community where I invested so much of my time and energy. Mingkaman has no secondary school so many youth allowed to continue with studies must leave the community to do so.

Achiek wants to attend secondary school, but she faces societal pressure to be married. I could see the Young Reporters training was a creative outlet for her and the three other young women, and eight young men, who had attended.

Young Juma brought national news to Mingkaman FM listeners. Tanya and I were extremely proud about his performance. While Mingkaman FM staff stood by, Young Juma brought news of the Mingkaman Young Reporters exhibit to all in the community while keeping them up-to-date on events across the country.

None of us knew when the fighting would stop, but Mingkaman’s young reporters stood up and showed leadership during this uncertain time. They wouldn’t allow an outbreak of violence to interrupt their fifth anniversary celebration.

The only way forward for South Sudan is to invest in its youth. Those I worked with in Mingkaman want long lasting peace and security so they can receive education and build this new nation from the ground up. I think we should all support these courageous young men and women. They are the future of this country.

Mingkaman Young Reporters multimedia exhibit was done with the help of Internews’ The Radio Community, a network of radio stations bringing humanitarian information and news to communities around the country.

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Loreto Girls Journalism Club Reunite and Report from Rumbek on South Sudan’s Economy

Loreto Girls Journalism Club

RUMBEK, South Sudan – “The first time I heard there was fighting in my village, I felt sad. I wasn’t expecting this to happen,” said Christine Makuer Bol. “I’m trying my best to teach people not to do this again. I call myself Lady Peace to bring peace to South Sudan.”

Bol, 19, began writing and recording music in 2013 under the name Lady Peace. This was before South Sudan’s civil war began. For the past three years, she’s been singing to stop the spread of violence in her young nation.

For now, a fragile peace agreement is in place, but everyone is afraid the fighting could start again. Lady Peace is encouraging South Sudanese to forgive one another and move forward to build the country.

And she’s not just speaking out as a musician; she’s also an aspiring journalist.

“I want to be on radio and television so I can show South Sudanese girls anything is possible. This is why I joined Loreto journalism club,” she said.

The Loreto Secondary School girls formed a journalism club in 2014. It’s founder, Aruai Kedit, is no longer attending Loreto. Last December, her family forced her to leave school to marry a young man in the community.

Run by Catholic nuns from Ireland, Loreto has a rule that once a girl is married, she’s no longer allowed to return. Kedit’s parents were aware that by marrying her, she wouldn’t be able to continue her studies there.

Lady Peace with recorder 1

Lady Peace is a member of Loreto girls journalism club.

“It’s so hard to find a Dinka girl reaching 16 or 17 without being married. If your family is Dinka they will pressure your parents and ask why are you letting your daughter get old,” Aruai Kedit said in 2015 during a storytelling workshop hosted by Internews.

Lady Peace regrets seeing Kedit leave school for an arranged marriage and an uncertain future.

Media training for Loreto J-Club

The future of the Loreto Girls Journalism Club is uncertain. I went to Rumbek last October to spend some time with the club’s members, and found a group of energetic young women looking to learn about how to make change through media.

They spoke about the need for girls to receive an education in South Sudan, and the negative effects of early childhood marriage on young women. They also spoke out against inter-communal violence among Dinka clans in Rumbek.

I returned to Rumbek in July to find a group of girls no longer sure of how to continue the journalism club without Kedit’s organizing skills. They had not held any club meetings since the last time I was there.

Over the course of two days, I did workshops in basic journalism guidelines and interviewing skills. I played them Thembi’s Aids Diary, a powerful story about a young South African woman suffering from HIV/AIDS.

I hoped this would inspire them to share their own stories. A few of them had done so last year while I was with them, sharing and recording a mix of personal and traditional stories during the storytelling and introduction to radio workshops.

“I really want to be a journalist,” said Jamsina Manasseh in 2015. “All I want is society to see that this little girl from the village will be heard on the radio and seen on the television.”

Loreto girls interviewing women at Rumbek market

Loreto girls journalism club interviewing women at Rumbek market.

Jamsina assures me she still wants to be a journalist, but is now doubtful that it will happen. I reassured her that if you’re passionate about something, and strive toward it, it should always work out.

Loreto Girls ‘Report from Rumbek’

I knew I had to show the Loreto girls how fun reporting in the community can be.

On my last day at Loreto, the deputy principal and I arranged to take 18 girls from the journalism club to Rumbek market. In South Sudan, markets are the only true public space and forum for people to exchange news and information.

It’s also a place crawling with police and military carrying AK47 assault rifles. So we had to be extremely careful, given the explosive nature of violence in Rumbek.

Lady Peace and Jamsina led the group to interview many women traders at Rumbek market with a Zoom recorder donated by Internews to the Loreto journalism club.

“I haven’t been to the market in over one year,” Jamsina said. “I can’t believe these women are struggling so hard to sell with prices so high. Very few people are buying basic food items.”

Lady Peace spoke to a woman selling milk. “She told me not many people are able to afford it with the cost now three times what it was a few weeks ago. This situation in South Sudan is affecting everyone.”

A few members of the Loreto girls journalism club told me they want to do more reporting in the community. They hope to arrange more outings on weekends to interview Rumbek area residents. Stories they would like to focus on are how to stop local violence, and how to keep girls in school.

Internews supports Loreto Girls Journalism Club with training, resource materials such as books, and a Zoom H2N audio recorder to encourage these future leaders in South Sudan to use media, especially radio, to make change in their communities.

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Peace and Reconciliation in South Sudan begins on the Community Airwaves at 88.3 FM

2016-06-06 11.21.05

Singaita 88.3 FM’s new broadcast journalists outside of the radio studio in Kapoeta, South Sudan.

KAPOETA, South Sudan – Loka John sits down on a blue plastic chair in the Singaita 88.3 FM newsroom. The 23-year-old sets his notebook on the table in front of him and flips it open to an empty page. He scrawls a few notes with his pen.

The news meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. John pitches his story idea to the four other reporters, news manager, and journalism trainer.

“I attended a meeting yesterday led by the governor and deputy governor over the conflict near my boma [village] in Budi County,” John said.

Over the last month 56 people have been killed, and dozens of homes have been burnt to the ground, according to Community Development Support Service, a local organization working in the area.

Toposa and Didinga are the two main ethnic groups sharing this stretch of land, in South Sudan’s southeast, that extends from the town of Kapoeta all the way to the Kenyan border. In the Singaita radio newsroom, named after the seasonal river connecting these communities, both groups are represented.

All five Singaita FM reporters, two Didinga and three Toposa, sit around the table sharing phone numbers of local officials and residents to interview.

“We used to graze our [Didinga] cattle side-by-side and share water sources with Toposa,” John added.

Cattle raids are common in South Sudan, with one ethnic group or clan stealing cows from each other. This often leads to reprisal attacks, revenge killings, and sometimes kidnappings.

A history of conflict

South Sudan’s 20-month-long civil war and slow implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement (Agreement on the resolution of conflict in the Republic of South Sudan) by President Salva Kiir’s SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) and Riek Machar’s SPLA-In Opposition has led to a collapsing economy.

The transitional government of national unity, as stipulated in the peace agreement, is now trying to lead South Sudan back from the brink of failed state status, but fighting rages on in rural areas.

2016-06-14 12.03.45As the economy continues its downward spiral, young men still seek cattle to pay dowry, or bride price. Getting married is a tradition most young South Sudanese men feel the need to partake in, at any cost.

“It’s a part of our [Toposa] culture. If you haven’t raided cattle, it means you are not a man,” said Singaita FM reporter Lotiira Joseph. “After a successful raid, you receive a nickname from the color of the bulls stolen. This is tradition.”

Joseph, 26, goes on to say that he’s thankful his father sent him to a mission school as a boy when his uncle wanted him sent to a cattle camp, where South Sudanese boys learn to use weapons to protect cows.

“In school we learned the Bible. The ten commandments state thou shall not kill or steal,” he added.

In rural areas there is little to no access to education or economic opportunity. This leads young men to attempt to steal cattle, as livestock prices continue to skyrocket, rather than purchase it legitimately at the market.

“An increase in dowry causes these men to raid cattle. If there’s hunger or debt that needs to be paid, this also leads to violence. We need to stop this,” said Singaita FM reporter Mary Apoo.

“There is no difference between Didinga and Toposa in terms of culture. When young men want to get married they need cows!” she exclaimed.

Reconciliation on the radio

Mary, 25, picks up her Nokia phone to call Toposa and Didinga community leaders. She says by inviting them into Singaita FM to discuss the violence and the need for peace on-air, she’s acting the part of a mediator.

Mary Apoo interviewing Toposa women at Kapoeta market

Singaita FM reporter Mary Apoo interviewing Toposa women in Kapoeta town.

There is growing concern at the state level about the need to start a peace and reconciliation conference. According to officials, the aim will be to bring together Toposa and Didinga to discuss recent events and engage in a peaceful dialogue.

If peace and reconciliation works at a local level, it may be replicated on a national scale. Chapter five of the peace agreement calls for the establishment of a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing within six months of the formation of the unity government.

As communities in the greater Eastern Equatoria region grapple with decades of conflict, a need to discuss accountability and provide justice to South Sudanese of all ethnic backgrounds must begin immediately.

John gathers his notebook, audio recorder and headphones. He leaves the newsroom to head out in to the community to report on the peace efforts for Singaita FM.

Singaita 88.3 FM broadcasts daily from Kapoeta South. It’s signal reaches parts of the surrounding Kapoeta East, North and Budi Counties, where cattle raids continue with impunity. Singaita FM is the newest member of Internews’ The Radio Community, a network of radio stations across South Sudan.

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Philippines 2016 Election Report CBC The World This Weekend

MANILA, Philippines – Thirty years since the People Power non-violent uprising that overthrew the corrupt regime of Ferdinand Marcos and martial law, Filipinos head to the polls.

The anti-establishment mayor of Davao city, Rodrigo Duterte, is favoured to win the presidential election, while Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is slated to be vice president.

Filipinos fear losing the democratic values they fought for in 1986 and return to strong man rule. Marcos has attempted to revise history to appeal to youth born after martial law. This story aired on CBC TWTW Sunday, May 8, 2016.

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Myanmar’s Tech Transformation – Public Radio Exchange

YANGON, Myanmar – Burma’s democratic transition is leading to a tech transformation. Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi told youth to stop wasting time on mobile phones and online.

Almost half of Myanmar’s population is under 24 years of age. Everyone is looking for the new government to catch up with the rest of Southeast Asia in terms of connectivity, potentially lifting millions out of poverty. This story was shared on PRX April 15, 2016.

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South Sudan: ‘Panda Bor’ Our Home, Our Culture, Our Radio, Our Community

Mingkaman 100 FM Bor bureau office.

BOR, South Sudan – “When I turn on the radio, my wife immediately switches the dial to Mingkaman FM,” said Daniel Ayuen Manyok, Jonglei state school inspector.

Every Sunday evening, listeners in Bor, and across the Nile River in Mingkaman, Lakes state, return home to tune their radio dials in to 100 FM for the latest news and current events from Jonglei state.

At 8 p.m. sharp a drumbeat comes over the airwaves and local artist Alek Mamiir’s song Mading Bor (the Dinka name given to Bor, capital of Jonglei state) begins.

The 100 FM host introduces “Panda Bor (Bor, Our Home),” a current events program featuring stories on traditional culture, ways to improve farming methods, how the economic crisis is affecting residents, the importance of education, health challenges facing the community, along with women and children’s rights.

Mingkaman 100 FM Bor reporter Chan Amol interviews a trader at Marol market in Bor town.

Mingkaman 100 FM Bor reporter Chan Amol interviews a trader at Marol market in Bor town.

“I listen every Sunday evening to Mingkaman FM. It [Panda Bor] educates the community on social issues,” said Abel Manyuon Jok, the director general at the Jonglei state ministry of education. “It broadcasts in Dinka [language] so everyone in the community understands. It also informs the government on what our people are saying.”

“Panda Bor updates us on agricultural activities in Jonglei state,” said Mayom Riak, a member of Greater Bor Farmers Association. “It encourages people to cultivate and discourages them to depend on government hand-outs.”

“I like Panda Bor. It discusses the issue of forced childhood marriage,” said former Bor mayor Nhial Majak Nhial. “This is a traditional cultural practice the community needs to be educated on so it does not continue.”

“It covers education, health and women’s rights,” said Bor County Commissioner Isaac Mameer Ruk. “I really like the mix of traditional and contemporary Dinka music.”

“I like Panda Bor because I heard a song on it calling for women’s equality in South Sudan,” said Bor youth Dhieu Achol.

Since 2015, Panda Bor program on Mingkaman 100 FM has reported on its community; the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s team of reporters; Chan Paul Amol, Peter Kuol Kuch, Rhoda Ateng Noah and Jacob Deng Ghai, have reported stories at the local and state levels.

Each week, Panda Bor puts the voices of South Sudanese women and children on the airwaves to start a larger discussion about the nation’s future.

Mingkaman 100 FM Bor reporter Rhoda Ateng interviews Oxfam on its Jonglei state food security report.

Mingkaman 100 FM Bor reporter Rhoda Ateng interviews Oxfam on its Jonglei state food security report.

“A few years ago, Bor residents used to walk around naked. Now everyone wears clothes. This town is modernizing very fast,” said 27-year-old Panda Bor reporter Rhoda Ateng Noah. “I have three children and I want them to attend a good school, so I do stories about the need for quality education in Jonglei state. I have even started my own program called A Child’s Life.”

Along with daily news stories, the weekly Panda Bor (Bor, Our Home), A Child’s Life (Children’s rights), and Mingkaman – Bor Together (Humanitarian information) programs are produced at Mingkaman 100 FM Bor bureau office, located on the second floor of Ariop Commercial Centre, Marol Market, Bor, Jonglei state.

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South Sudanese Youth Find Voice and Take Over the Radio Airwaves


Local youth learn media skills for community reconciliation.

MINGKAMAN, South Sudan – “I would like to welcome my guests. It’s now time for the new Mingkaman Young Reporters program,” says 100 FM daytime host Deng Daniel Ngor.

Four Mingkaman residents, out of of a group of 12 youth trained on radio and photography by Internews, sat across the table from Ngor in the radio studio.

Rebecca Yar, 18, is in her final year at Mingkaman One primary school. This is her very first time on the radio. At first she seemed a bit nervous, but once handed the microphone, Yar spoke from the heart.

“Many families don’t want their girls to go to school. I had to push hard for my father to send me. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue with my studies next year,” she said.

Despite promises from local authorities, no secondary school has been built in Awerial County, with a population of over 70,000. The closest secondary school is over 70 kilometers away in Yirol, Lakes state or across the Nile River in Bor, Jonglei state.

Rebecca Yar is an 18-year-old primary school student. She's a member of the Mingkaman Young Reporters.

Rebecca Yar is an 18-year-old primary school student. She’s a member of the Mingkaman Young Reporters.

Access to education is an issue all youth in Mingkaman agree must improve. Isaiah Anguat, 22, comes from Awerial County. He still hasn’t completed secondary school.

“There has been a lot of development in Mingkaman. We have roads, health clinics, a bank, a port, and 10 primary schools,” he said. “But we need a secondary school, so I can finish my education and find a job.”

A lack of employment opportunities led to a protest in September 2015. Youth from Awerial County stormed the gates of Mingkaman’s humanitarian hub demanding jobs from aid agencies.

Mingkaman 100 FM became the target of this protest and resulting violence. Youth from the host community of Awerial County claimed IDP youth, originating from Bor County but displaced due to the December 2013 conflict, were being offered more job opportunities.

James Garang, 26, remembers this outburst of violence. He says there was a trend that started in 2014 with violence between host and IDP youth over land and cattle.

“We must advise youth that there are other ways to deal with problems rather than fighting,” Garang said. “If community and youth leaders meet to discuss the underlying issues it will not lead to violence.”

Garang and Yar mentioned the importance of community reconciliation, via the radio airwaves, during the Mingkaman Young Reporters program.

“Reconciliation means for people to live in peace. We will avoid fighting, forgive, and live as brother and sister in one nation,” said Yar.

Daniel Gai, 43, is a father of six children and the oldest member of Mingkaman Young Reporters team. He’s originally from Bor County. Two of Gai’s kids are enrolled in Mingkaman primary schools.

“I’m not ready to return to Bor. If I take my children back home, I fear cattle raiders may come and kidnap them,” he said. “It’s better to keep my children here, safe and in school.”

Daniel Gai is a 43-year-old father of six and member of Mingkaman Young Reporters.

Daniel Gai is a 43-year-old father of six and member of Mingkaman Young Reporters.

Insecurity is the main reason most displaced people from Bor, Jonglei state have yet to return home in large numbers. Mingkaman has grown from a village to a regional trading center since 2014. Humanitarian agencies have supported, and helped finance, this growth.

Internews set up Mingkaman 100 FM to help agencies reach displaced people with critical humanitarian information. It has also grown, and its signal now reaches the wider region of Eastern Lakes and Jonglei states.

“When there is violence, it’s good to use the radio to stop it before it spreads,” said Anguat.

Mingkaman 100 FM host, Daniel Deng Ngor cuts in. He fled the violence in Bor late 2013. Ngor, 27, now calls Mingkaman home.

“We are trying to unite the youth in Mingkaman, so they can understand the importance of life,” he said. “Their [Mingkaman Young Reporters] message was to live together, not as host or IDP, but as one community.”

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#Uganda: Snapshots of Kampala. Chris Marol blows out the candles on his 36th after a song and dance from Cafe Javas staff at Oasis Nakumatt.

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