UJOSS Secretary General, Michael Koma, comments on the People’s Voice Project Print

Mike MDI-UJOSS imageThe Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) was founded by a group of twenty South Sudanese Journalists in 2004 and was officially registered in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in 2006.

Before its partnership with the Media Diversity Institute (MDI), UJOSS had run a number of media training projects funded by some charities such as Norwegian People’s Aid. However, the growth and development of UJOSS up until late 2010 was slow due to lack of consistent funding.

This changed when, in August 2010, the Media Diversity Institute helped UJOSS to implement its first major project, the People’s Voice newspaper supplement, funded by the European Commission (EC). And also, when, in November 2010, UJOSS held its first General Assembly with the support of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

The assembly elected a new executive body and subsequently the number of members grew from 20 to 300, across the ten states of South Sudan, in the course of three months. UJOSS’ members are journalists working for state, private, and independent media houses, plus freelancers.

With the support of MDI, the EC, and the People’s Voice Project, UJOSS was able to establish and fully equip its first office in January 2011, as well as provide laptops, mobile phones and other equipment to over 20 of its member journalists. By May 2011, the Union had established six sub-offices in six out of ten South Sudanese states, while it is striving to finalise the opening of the other four bureaus.

As the first step in the People’s Voice Project, MDI and UJOSS organized a 10 day training course in Juba for 16 junior reporters to establish a cadre of journalists to work on the People’s Voice newspaper supplement.  The course was run by the acclaimed Sierra Leonean journalist, Sorious Samura, and experienced South Sudanese editor, Albino Okeny Olak.  A roundtable debate was also organized to publicise the launch of the project.

The People’s Voice monthly supplement was launched in January 2011, and is circulated throughout South Sudan in two leading newspapers, The Juba Post and the Southern Eye.

The central aim of the People’s Voice is to reflect the voice of the voiceless - the ordinary marginalized people - in the mainstream media in South Sudan where media houses are inclined to focus coverage on the government to the detriment of the common people.

Furthermore, by featuring unique and extraordinary stories from voiceless citizens in remote rural areas, the People’s Voice has assisted reporters in states without access to the mainstream media to practice their journalistic skills, and at the same time serve as training tool for young aspirant journalists.

Overall, the People’s Voice project, and the support of organizations such as MDI, NPA and the EC has enabled UJOSS to develop and establish a reputation as a major player in the South Sudan media landscape and true representative of the journalists of South Sudan.

Michael Koma, UJOSS Secretary General