In South Sudan, being a journalist is a dangerous job. The ongoing political turmoil, the threat to press freedom and freedom of expression, coupled with limited access to information means that South Sudanese journalists face tremendous challenges. Journalists have been harassed or detained, while others have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) established the Media Development Institute (MDI) in 2015 despite these challenges, to help journalists hone their craft and enable them to mitigate risk as they navigate the difficulties, and all too often, closing, media space. MDI seeks to strengthen professionalism within the media sector by training superb journalists who provide unbiased and independent information to the public.
AMDISS/MDI developed criteria for selecting students for the course, taking into consideration past academic performance, ethnic background, gender and other considerations. Khamis John Brown was admitted to the most recent cohort of students, MDI’s fourth, which began in September 2019. Khamis is a journalist with special needs – he can’t walk. Despite the challenges he faces in everyday life in South Sudan, he is a news anchor at South Sudan Radio, reading the Juba Arabic news bulletin. Khamis is a graduate of the University of Juba in Khartoum and holds a degree in development communication.
Khamis joined the MDI cohort because he wanted to improve his journalism skills.
“I wanted to study journalism in English at MDI and improve my career in journalism to be able to speak to people, especially my fellow disabled persons, because they don’t have a voice,” said Khamis.
He added that, “I appreciated the management of AMDISS/MDI for considering me to realize my dreams by being part of this journalism training. The management moved the class from upstairs to downstairs to enable me access the classroom which I think many institutions of the kind would not do.”
This year’s cohort of students is vastly diverse with students coming from all over the country. Of the 36 students enrolled, 39% are female, the Institute’s highest percentage ever. AMDISS/MDI are committed to making journalism accessible by ensuring that their admission processes are inclusive and result in the composition of a diverse student body each year.
The Media Development Institute (MDI) is affiliate with the Association of Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) and is a sub-grantee of the USAID-funded i-STREAM (Strengthening Free and Independent Media in South Sudan) project, implemented by Internews.
(Banner photo: Internews supports the Media Development Institute, a South Sudanese training institution for current journalists that works to empower women and other marginalized groups. Credit: USAID)