Mapping The Void

A State-By-State Media Report on South Sudan and Selected Northern States: Published by: The Consortium on Promoting Freedom of Expression and Civil Society Involvement in Developing of Democratic Media Legislation in Sudan

Written by John Gachie with assistance from Richard Mogga and Mac Maika


PREFACE:

1. A Terrifying Vacuum — and Tremendous Potential

When it comes to media studies and research, Sudan in particular, South Sudan is literally one of the world’s final frontiers. It has all the ingredients of uncharted territory. In this landmark investigation of the status of South Sudanese media, the authors map the media sector in a region just emerging from conflict and come up with an extraordinary picture. In the process they also identify a vast vacuum and acute shortfalls. It is morning yet on creation day in the world of Sudan media, which also means that there is hope yet although the needs and the wants are truly daunting. But daunting needn’t mean intimidating. As the authors John Gachie and Co make clear after traversing more than 5,000 kilometres of South Sudanese territory, there is a great news and information void in South Sudan but there is also tremendous potential.

Consumers of media products, content and services in more developed parts of the world, including in such nearby places as neighbouring countries will be stunned by the South Sudanese media void delineated in this brief study. But it is also a void that harbours a great yearning, an immense hunger, for news, information, data, analyses and evaluation. South Sudanese are natural consumers of media products and seek them out both within the void at home and everywhere in their Diaspora.

This report builds on the findings of the report by Consortium Promoting Freedom of Expression and Civil Society Involvement in Developing Democratic Media Legislation in Sudan Media in Sudan at a Crossroads assessment report of November 2007 by International Media Support (IMS), which identified the need for a further assessment of the status of media in the states as not only apparent but crucial for a better and clearer understanding of the situation obtaining on the ground.

And put their boots on the ground in South Sudan in an empirical study of media product production, distribution and consumption the authors of this report definitely did. There are many remarkable scenarios in this study, with one of the most unforgettable being the video hall audiences who are avid viewers of Bollywood productions with Arabic subtitles!

From the fairly well developed system of printed products (newspapers and magazines), outlets and vendors in Yei to the vast expanse of Western Equatoria State, to Eastern Equatoria State and its international crossroads town of Torit to Jongolei State and far beyond, this study assesses the state of both print and electronic media, right down to vending, video halls and source of reading, viewing and listening material. Where it is to be found, a lot of South Sudanese viewing and listening media content is sourced from neighbouring regions, including Kenya and Uganda.

Aspects of the void were clear in the Lakes State capital of Rumbek, some 350 kilometres Northwest of Juba, where this study found very limited media products print and electronic – mostly sourced from Juba and other neighbouring states. Most of the printed products were usually a week or more old editions of English newspapers based in Khartoum, Juba and Nairobi, Kenya. There were no indications of any other media products from any other source.

A profound disconnect underpins the sometimes terrifying news and information void in South Sudan.

It was clear at the end of these field missions that there exists a gulf between the state governments and the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) on legal and policy formulation, development and co-ordination. This is most pronounced between the relevant ministries in charge of information/broadcasting at the states’ level and the GoSS Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Juba.

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