Threats, intimidation censorship – working as a journalist in a young and still emerging country brings many challenges. But South Sudanese journalist and RNTC alumnus, Daniel Ngor, continues to report on sensitive issues despite the difficulties. His work has now been recognised by the Federation of International Gender and Human Rights (FIGHR) with their 2020 Prize of Peace Award. Ameena Ali, founder of FIGHR, thanked Ngor for “all he has done for the community he serves and humanity as a whole.”
Threats and restrictions
The country of South Sudan gained independence in 2011 after a referendum in which its people voted overwhelmingly to secede from Sudan. Independence was the culmination of a long, armed struggle starting in the mid-1950s. Being a journalist in this young country brings many challenges, says Ngor.
“I have been experiencing a lot of threats and there are restrictions targeted at individuals or entities, such as media houses or associations, whose opinions or work are perceived as critical to the government in South Sudan, as tarnishing the reputation of the country or addressing issues considered sensitive.”
Topics that have triggered restrictions include information on the political climate, criticism of the South Sudanese government for alleged corruption, civilian casualties, conflict-related sexual violence, unemployment and political ineffectiveness. Ngor:
“These restrictions and other measures limiting freedom of expression have a chilling effect on individuals and organisations, and led to increasing self-censorship due to safety concerns. This has resulted in further shrinking the space for debate. Many journalists here in South Sudan lack the skill of being independent.”
For FIGHR, Ngor works on community awareness, attitudes and practices around gender and gender-based violence (GBV).
“Reports of cases of GBV are occurring. We look at how the community perceives each type and words used to describe these acts in community services. GBV principles include ensuring the safety of survivors, ensuring confidentiality, respecting the survivors, and practicing non-discrimination. Join community-based victim support initiatives, be trained as a volunteer and be part of the national dialogues throughout the country to allow communities to speak freely about gender based violence.”
As a freelance broadcast journalist Ngor works for the national media production company MCK, which provides television news and empowers local broadcast journalists. He also works in association with South Sudan TV, and SSBC in Juba. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, with First Class Honours-Upper Division from Kampala University in Uganda. Ngor is also active in the non-profit media sector, and worked with the Internews South Sudan media project supported by a USAID-funded media development organisation.
“The radio station where I worked is located in a community which has hosted tens of thousands of internally displaced persons since the civil war in my country begun in 2013.”
Last year Ngor followed the course Digital Content Creative at RNTC in Hilversum, the Netherlands, through the Orange Knowledge Programme of Nuffic. That training fundamentally changed the nature of his journalistic work, explains Ngor, as well as his views on the function of media in our society:
“It has reinvented age-old practices of public communication, going beyond traditional media and challenging its privileged role as the gatekeeper of news. The RTNC Digital Content Creative course has taken my abilities from good to great, empowering my journalistic skills. Today, digital content creatives have a duty to publish accurate and compelling stories to targeted audiences while being engaging and share-worthy and above all, your content must stand out in a highly competitive market. I hope my new skills will help me start doing great change.
I hope I will be able to combine techniques in creativity, learning, persuasion, and understand well how to tell stories. Also this course has helped me strengthen my capacity to collect, analyses and present data in fresh, powerful and engaging stories.”
Media for change
The media can play a central role in informing the public about what happens in their nation, Ngor believes, particularly in those areas lacking access to information, such as South Sudan:
”This may examine the impact the media has in the construction of public belief and attitudes and its relationship to social change and drawing on findings from a range of empirical studies, we look at the impact of media coverage in areas such as disability.”
Journalists play an important role in difficult countries, says Ngor, and he recommends RNTC courses to other journalists from South Sudan.
“I hope when they attend this fundamentally changes the nature of their journalistic training and function of media in our society. This will bring many changes to our community and more broadly to our country’s media houses.”
Winning the FIGHR Peace Award makes Ngor very proud.
“I am so excited. I never knew this was happening. We were very many participants taking the courses and assigned in the field. This is an acknowledgment of a job well done and justification for the agony, the self-doubt, and the hard work. This award makes me feel proud, happy, overwhelmed, and delighted. Receiving this validation boosts my confidence. Acknowledgment and recognition are vital human needs.”