National, News

Journalists’ welfare worries union

By Charles K Mark

President Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) has expressed concern over the welfare of journalists in the country.

UJOSS president Patrick Oyet told No. 1 Citizen Daily English Newspaper that the current payment to national journalists is insufficient to improve their lives.

He said the lack of sustainability measures in local media outlets with inefficient facilities and inadequate resources continues to make the lives of journalists difficult during their line of duty.

“You find a media house does not have resources; it doesn’t have enough money because they tell you that the market is bad, people are not advertising, there are no big businesses, and there are no big companies,” Oyet said.

Currently, the South Sudan National Communication Authority (NCA) holds a list of many registered media outlets that have, until now, failed to operationalize their licenses.

Those media houses that are keeping momentum seem to be backed up by donor funding, whose future prospects are unclear.

The UJOSS president mentioned that one challenge facing journalists is that the government makes the situation worse with the tiny payments offered to state-owned and public-run media outlets.

“Now, it makes it extremely difficult when the government pays, for example, its workers maybe $10 or $15 a month,” Mr. Oyet wondered.

He stated that the private media uses the government payment list of the civil servants as a benchmark to guide their payments to the journalists.

“If, therefore, a private media house is paying a journalist $50 and you go to them and tell that media house that you are paying our journalists very little money and you need to increase the money, it becomes a very big debate because they’ll ask you what the government is paying,” Oyet lamented.

No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper caught up with some journalists in Juba to understand their views about their welfare in the country.

Sarah Kinki (Kinki Love), a senior broadcast journalist working at Urban FM, told our reporter that journalists work under unfavorable conditions in the sense that they put in much efforts to execute their duties, but at the end, their pay can’t equate to their efforts.

“The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) needs to sit with the media managers and proprietors to strategize on ways to improve the journalists’ welfare,” she said.

Sarah also slammed media bosses, who seem to take advantage and exploit the journalists who work hard to put food on the table.

“There are media houses that hardly appreciate the hard work by the journalists, hence driving them to resort to plan B, which is, of course, accepting the brown envelope, which leads to unbalanced stories. Journalists owe it to themselves to be paid reasonable salaries,” she emphasized.

Another senior journalist, Okech Francis, a writer and editor at The Dawn Daily newspaper, said media outlets in South Sudan care less about providing adequate support to journalists.

“Salaries are small, while journalists are demanded to produce stories on a daily basis. There is a lack of motivation,” Okech echoed about the appalling situation of the journalists.

“The brown envelope, or water, gets its way to journalists, especially because of the poor working conditions to which they are subjected.” Okech said, “They may have huge economic obligations to their kin, and yet remuneration is at the barest. To make ends meet, the brown envelope becomes very handy”.

He stressed that journalists are not provided stipends by their media houses and sometimes have to sacrifice a lot of their own resources to accomplish their work.

“This is a situation that must be changed,” Okech urged.

The Association of Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) said it is seeking avenues to build media relations through an annual suitability forum that would strengthen media marketing and sales in order to sustain media outlets besides funding.

Acting Director of AMDISS, Ayaa Irene Lokang, told the No. 1 Citizen Daily English Newspaper that the association, in partnership with IREX, has brought together members of the private sector, government, media proprietors, and other stakeholders to deliberate on crucial matters that pave the way to sustainability.

“I hope that through this forum, people will start understanding the role media plays in South Sudan so that media houses can start generating income to support their running costs,” said Ayaa.

AMDISS Acting Director said that currently in South Sudan, the thriving media houses are those that are being funded, adding that outlets with no funding barely sustain operations.

The forum also aimed at discussing media independence, sustainability, and technology in the context of South Sudan.

It also explored challenges to media sustainability, with many traditional media business models being threatened as advertising revenue and funding decline.

Many conversations focused on how media organizations can adapt to the changing environment and ensure long-term sustainability while maintaining editorial independence.

The participants of the engagement forum looked at indicators, threats, opportunities, and case studies from the Kenyan media by Simaloi Dajom, a distinguished media personality and consultant from Kenya.

She encouraged the media outlets to promote quality content using all platforms that are engaged by many users, such as social media.

“Remember, 16 years old is your median age. So, if your content is not on social media, you have an entire generation that does not consume your content at all,” Dajom explained.

She added that pulling such a lost audience back onto radio is really hard, urging that the only way is to create content using radio and put that content on social media.

Dajom said it takes innovation to build a culture, but for sustainability to happen, change and transformation have to happen as well.

“The biggest opportunity for us to become sustainable is to realign with our target audience, remember the community, and remember the reason why we exist. Our first assignment should be to reconnect with the community,” the media consultant said.

“The content must endeavor to look into the needs, pinpoints, solutions, and whether the media is still the voice of the voiceless or not,” Simaloi continued.

She said there’s an opportunity to review business content and programming models and make them more successful right from the foundation.

“There is a big opportunity to develop and deliver value before we even present a station to be monetized to a client. The client wants to see value. So how do we develop that value? They want to see the mass, which is the audience. And I say even in a recession, people find budgets where there is value.” she added.

IREX, a partner of AMDISS, pledged to contribute its decades of global media development expertise towards strengthening the capacity and sustainability of independent media.

The SIMA (Sustainable Independent Media Activity) project would also target more than a dozen counties in South Sudan, providing citizens with a platform to contribute to a more responsive government for South Sudanese citizens.

This will be done by improving access to credible, accurate, and reliable information; promoting financial, institutional, and social sustainability; and investing in high-quality, credible journalism.

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