Regional Conference Equips Journalists in South Sudan with COVID-19 Reporting Skills

Catholic journalists in South Sudan upgrading their skills at a workshop organized by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), the Kenya-based regional conference of Catholic Bishops in nine countries, has facilitated a skills-based training of Catholic journalists in South Sudan, which involved the building their capacities in radio production, fact checking and reporting on COVID-19.

Speaking to ACI Africa on Tuesday, September 29 at the end of the training, the Director for Catholic Radio Network (CRN) in South Sudan said the weeklong session brought together journalists of the CRN member radio stations from the various Dioceses. inside and outside Juba.

“We had training for six days at the Catholic Radio Network; we started last Wednesday on production and fact checking. We had about 8 participants for that first training and 16 for the second session that ended yesterday,” CRN Director Mary Ajith told ACI Africa September 29.

She added that the training, which was supported by the Nairobi-based AMECEA Secretariat, was intended to do a refresher and to check where journalists engaged in CRN radio stations have weaknesses.


Participants were a mixed group of Catholic journalists from various departments and were drawn from the nine-member radio stations of CRN in the country.

They include Anisa Radio for Tambura-Yambio Diocese, Good News Radio for Rumbek Diocese, Bakhita Radio for Juba Archdiocese, Emmanuel Radio Torit Diocese, Radio Easter for Yei Diocese, Voice of Peace for Wau Diocese, Voice of Love for Malakal Diocese, Voice of Hope for Sudan's El Obeid Diocese, and Don Bosco Radio, Tonj for the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in Rumbek Diocese.

According to the CRN Director, the real purpose of having one training for CRN is the spirit of being a network of Catholic radios with the same values.

“If we think of one station doing what they can do alone without sharing with the rest, we will not have the same values,” she said.

The second session of the training was on ethical considerations and news values in reporting about COVID-19 pandemic.

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“What I like about that training was the perspective of solution-based reporting of journalism as opposed to problem-based journalism,” Ms. Ajith told ACI Africa, and added, “Instead of victimizing people who had survived or the families of those who died of COVID-19, we learnt to look at stories which can actually give them hope.”

The 24 trainees, according to the CRN official, were instructed to pass on the knowledge they acquired to the journalists who did not find the opportunity to attend the Juba training.

CRN in South Sudan suffers from lack of professional journalists in the production of news and programs of various formats, according to the trainers who interacted with CRN journalists.

“Most journalists in South Sudan are high school graduates and then we have others who are still students in the university and those who have joined college recently with little or no skills in the field,” CRN Director said.


She added, “The literacy rate is very low and in deep rural areas where we reach, even getting graduates is not easy.”

To boost competence in the journalism field, Ms. Ajith said, “Most of the stations have six months training on the basics of journalism so that we introduce the recruits into the system and upgrade them to professionalize their work as some of them are volunteers.”

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Santino Lounoi who was one of the facilitators of the journalists said he observed a desire in the CRN journalists to learn new skills.

“They showed that they are willing to learn and I think they have a lot of potential,” said Fr. Santino who is the Director of Radio Emmanuel, the radio for South Sudan’s Torit Diocese.

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He continued in reference to CRN journalists who took part in the six-day training, “They are of different categories: some of them are fit and others still need more training.”

Recalling his interaction with the journalists, Fr. Santino said, “What I am seeing is that their knowledge gap is mainly in practical; they have the theory but need to apply it to practice.”

“Some of them are those who did not go to journalism school; I noticed some have diplomas not in the field of media,” the South Sudanese Cleric said, and added, “From what I have seen some of the journalists are those who have not worked long for CRN.”

The other challenge facing journalism in the country, according to Fr. Santino, is the switching of career to the corporate field, which he said was better paying.

“There are mixed reasons why journalists leave to work in other institutions. In South Sudan, there is a shortage of skilled personnel and when NGOs see somebody working in the media, they come and take them for better pay,” Fr. Santino said.

He explained, “The biggest challenge we have is lack of money to pay the journalists because here we are dealing with community radios that do not generate a lot of money.”

Fr. Santino applauded AMECEA for sponsoring the training saying in times of conflict, it is imperative that journalists are equipped with knowledge to highlight issues affecting the communities.  

“As journalists, with a bad economy and many other things happening, we have to give people a kind of hope. We have to promote solution-based journalism, helping the people in difficulties to be able to go around with the difficulties until things improve in future,” Fr. Santino told ACI Africa September 29.