Voice of America (Washington, DC)

28 January 2014

South Sudanese Journalists Put Tribal Divisions Aside

Juba — In South Sudan, clashes continue despite the cease-fire last week. The political conflict between the president and his opponents is harder and harder to separate from the ethnic conflict between Dinka and Nuer. But at a radio station in Juba, journalists of both tribes collaborate, overcoming the challenges of working in such a sensitive environment.

While fighting continues to tear South Sudan's people apart,

Eye Radio issued a call to unity. Presenter Lasuba Memo tries to cover the events and also convey a positive message at the local station located in Juba.

Memo says the show had to adapt to the crisis, adding that it finishes earlier because of the curfew. They also stopped taking phone calls from listeners.

"The situation is still hot. People are emotional. And I took that positive[ly]," Memo explained. "We came to realize that through the text messages that we have decided as the only way to interact with out listeners, because some of the messages are inciting violence."

Eye Radio has journalists from all South Sudanese tribes, including the Dinka and Nuer, who are at the heart of the conflict.

Station manager Steve Omiri says when the conflict erupted, he reminded all members of his team of their journalistic duty.

"I sent an email out, to inform all my journalists that we have a career [job] to do, that there are people listening to us and they need information. So we must stick together during this crisis, we should not think of: 'Oh I come from this tribe, or I come from this tribe.' Let's be one people, because our career come first from [than] our tribe," he explained.

Daniel Danis, who is half Dinka and half Nuer, says his colleagues were able to put their personal feelings aside and continue to do their jobs.

"What I like about most of my colleagues is that once they are here, they put their job first," Danis said. "Their own comments and sentiments about what is happening to their community is there. When you get to chat with someone, they'll tell you the pain they are going through. But it never interferes with what they do."

About 30 journalists work at the station, and very few of them felt the need to take leave because of safety or moral dilemmas. Danis says being a journalist helps him remain neutral in the eyes of the community.

"Working as a journalist makes you become friendly to people. So I never felt threatened in a way because I know this job of mine that I have, that I'm doing, that I have done before, has brought me together with so many other colleagues from different communities," he said.

Eye Radio is one of the very few radio stations that remains on-air in South Sudan, and one of the few that still sends its journalists out into the field, every day, to report first-hand on the crisis in the country.

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