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Last Updated: 7 January, 2011 - 17:37 GMT
Training Southern Sudan’s journalists
Trainee Lillian Ochoo preparing to contribute to a programme in Sudan alongside BBC World Service journalist Damian Zane
For six years the BBC World Service Trust has worked in Southern Sudan to help strengthen the area’s media to aid the democratic process. As the region votes on independence, Country Director Carol Morgan discusses a unique collaboration between different parts of BBC World Service.
The democratic role of the media in helping people follow the political issues and use their votes is critical.
And in the run-up to 9 January’s crucial referendum on independence in Southern Sudan, BBC World Service Business Development arranged for six local radio trainees to help give a voice to the people of the region.
The poll – the outcome of a peace deal brokered six years ago, ending the civil war between the north and south of the country – is of huge significance. It will decide on whether Africa’s largest country should be divided into two.
To help build journalism skills, linked to this important event, the BBC World Service Trust, BBC Arabic and BBC English for Africa services worked in partnership to train reporters and produce a range of content.
Fragile peace
WHAT IS THE BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST?
As the BBC’s international development charity, BBC World Service Trust uses media and communications to reduce poverty and promote human rights, thereby enabling people to build better lives.
It is funded by external grants and voluntary contributions, mainly from the UK’s Department for International Development, the European Union, UN agencies and charitable foundations. It receives a small amount of core support from the BBC (both in kind and cash).
It believes that independent, vibrant media are critical to the development of free and just societies, and it shares the BBC’s ambition to provide accurate, impartial and reliable information to enable people to make informed decisions.
It was agreed that turnout would have to be at least 60% of the nearly four million registered voters for the referendum to be valid.
Yet the region has an extremely low level of literacy and little history of voting, making an already difficult situation harder.
The fragile peace that exists also needs to hold for the election to take place successfully.
Building skills
Following a two-week reporting skills course, six trainees from two Southern Sudanese radio networks were chosen to work alongside journalists from the BBC Arabic and BBC English for Africa services.
The first time the services had collaborated in this way, the partnership utilised the unique local knowledge of the trainees and the logistical support of the BBC World Service Trust, resulting in material for broadcast on Network Africa and The World This Morning.
Over the past four years, the BBC World Service Trust has worked in Southern Sudan with community and state radio stations to help strengthen the region’s media and minimise potential conflicts by raising awareness of common issues.
This new project built new skills and brought together people of different backgrounds, working to raise awareness of both the referendum and related issues important to the audience.
Burgeoning debate
The trainees worked with BBC journalists, planning and producing material for a series of broadcasts.
As part of their newsgathering and training, the team were tasked with investigating why the region’s economy is so heavily dependent on oil, with 97% of the government’s non-aid budget coming from oil revenue.
At Juba’s main market the trainees found out that the majority of goods are imported from neighbouring countries, such as Uganda. The debate then focused on the potential for greater self-sufficiency and less reliance on imports.
Successful training
The south will continue to struggle with its own national coherence, critical in maintaining the peace required for development.
BBC World Service Trust Country Director Carol Morgan
Health was another focus. Visiting the teaching hospital in Juba, the trainees reported on the challenges staff face.
With only 130 doctors in the whole of Southern Sudan – one for every 80,000 people – there’s a chronic lack of medical staff.
Yet the trainees found some cause for optimism, with the hospital over the past few years having seen a transformation in the care provided and confidence that more foreign and locally-trained Southern Sudanese doctors would improve the situation.
After a week of gathering material, the training culminated in a live broadcast from the Juba University, centred on the trainees’ radio packages.
Daunting challenges
BBC World Service Trust trainee journalists in Sudan planning ahead of their broadcast on BBC World Service
But these and other issues explored by the trainee journalists whilst on assignment are unlikely to change overnight, regardless of the referendum's result.
The south will continue to struggle with its own national coherence, critical in maintaining the peace required for development.
It cannot quickly be transformed from being one of the poorest countries in the world, where 97% of women are illiterate, one out of every seven children will die before they are five years old and 50% of the population live on less than a dollar a day.
And internally, the south is a fractured state, split along tribal lines and with a returning population often discriminated against for not having remained during what southerners term ‘The Struggle’.
Whether independent or not, the government will face the problems of fostering political inclusion and stemming tribal conflict in the south. It will still face the problems of how to feed, clothe, shelter and integrate the hundreds of thousands who have flooded back, and to find the money to strengthen its scant infrastructure.
BBC World Service Trust’s continuing work training journalists aims to help develop a domestic media which can confidently express and debate these pressing issues.
Visit the BBC World Service Trust’s website by clicking here
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