Student journalists vow to change South Sudan’s storytelling narratives

Atem Jennifer Mabor (R) speaks to a journalist at MDI in Juba| Photo credit:L Karbino Dut | AIRS

The Media Development Institute (MDI) newly admitted students for journalism training say they are determined to change the narrative of storytelling in South Sudan.

The students expressed their mixed feelings during the opening day of the academic semester after getting enrolled in the MDI’s one-year journalism course. According to some, their aim of joining journalism training is to change the negative narrative about South Sudan.

Atem Jennifer Mabor, a 28-year-old business administration degree holder from Makerere University in Uganda, is one of the students who aspire to pursue her passion for journalism and report positive stories about the country.

“To be honest, what I see here is more than a vision. I want to go down to the grassroots; we have many untold stories down there,” Atem narrated.

She added that “The beauty of South Sudan has not yet been told to the world. All that we know is war and tribalism, but this country has so many beautiful cultures, languages, and kingdoms. For the country to shine is the role of the citizen.”

However, Journalism is one of the unattractive fields in the country due to poor pay causing many of the active journalists to quit their jobs and divert to less risky jobs with better and lucrative pay. Jennifer said some parents are always seen discouraging their children from taking Journalism as a career due to restricted freedom of the press, harassment, arbitrary arrest, disappearance, and killing of journalists.

“My mother didn’t want me to experience what happened to journalists in the country. But the passion for Journalism did not allow me to obey what my family wanted,” she stated. Atem the mother of two is an ambitious woman who aspires to pursue her passion for journalism and go deeper in reporting positive stories about the country.

According to one of the anonymous students, he joined MDI to get fresh training in journalism and others for practical training. He also mentioned that a good number of practicing journalists who graduated from MDI meet the Media Authority criteria for accreditation.

Despite the challenges faced by journalists in South Sudan, MDI has trained 156 journalists to date, with 24 set to graduate in November this year.

The institute’s efforts have contributed to an improvement in South Sudan’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index.

In 2023, South Sudan ranked 118 out of 180 countries, with an improvement of 21 points in the last five years.

However, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least six journalists have been killed in the course of their work since 2015.

This year, parliament nullified the powers of the National Security Service to arrest with or without a warrant. The occasion was officiated by Hon. Moyiga Nduru, Commissioner of Access to Information and attended by donors, MDI alumni, institute administration, and tutors.

MDI is the training wing of AMDISS, founded in 2003 with the aim of promoting media in the country and building the capacity of journalists.