South Sudan Journalists Training to Resist Hate Speech

By Ochan Hannington

Inflammatory media online has been blamed for contributing to South Sudan's civil war, which has been ongoing for five years now and has claimed up to 300,000 lives. Now several organizations have banded together to host workshops on the ground to teach local journalists about the importance of reporting objectively.

The Network of South Sudanese Civil Society Organizations recently completed a training session in Kampala, Uganda, where many South Sudanese journalists have fled to.

"The conflict in South Sudan began as a political conflict," said Tito Anthony from the Network of South Sudanese Civil Society Organizations.

"It went beyond a political crisis, it went beyond a crisis of personality, which is Riek Machar and Salva Kiir, it has gone to a bigger tribal... so it has become a tribal issue between the Nuer and the Dinka."

"If journalists remain, in South Sudanese especially, if they remain in that ideology it will influence whatever they do, even their writing. We feel like because they are the messengers, they are the people who spread the message, we should also remind them to keep focus, focus on their work, the accuracy, the non-partisanship and not allow other factors to influence their work."

Sharlotte Ainebyoona Kigezo from Platform Africa was one of the facilitators at the training and said online media has played a big part in the conflict. "From my view, and the trainings I do as a facilitator, social media that has been juiced up by prejudice and hate has elevated the current crisis that's going on in South Sudan,” she said.

"And that's why as an organization we picked that direction, to see healing in South Sudan."

Twenty-five participants attended the training in May, where they learned about prejudice and hate speech mitigation. Ms Kigezo said part of training involved clearly defining hate speech as communication that “denigrates people on the basis of their membership of a particular group”. “This may include a form of expression such as image, play, or songs as well as speech," she said.

“When you notice hate speech on social media we have three ways to [approach] it. Number one you can either ignore, or number two you can engage in conversation, and then number three, which is the final [approach]: You report. All social media platforms give us the ability to be able to report anything we consider hate speech, anything we consider offensive, anything we consider insulting."

Freelance journalist Daniel Paul participated in the training and said he will be putting his new skills to good use. "The knowledge I've gained here, I'll be using it in mitigating hate speech on social media by digging deep - whenever I get information I have to dig deep to know the source of that information."

"And also I have to see that this information, will it really bring change in my community, in my community, in my society? Or it will bring division in the community."

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