“Being a journalist in South Sudan is risking one’s life,” John Gatluak Manguet Nhial said to us last year. “But I have dedicated myself to serving my community through radio as a watchdog, informing them about what the politicians are doing once the citizens elect them to power.”
John was killed in the late afternoon of July 11, 2016, during the recent violence that erupted in Juba, South Sudan. He was 32 years old.
“He was a heroic reporter and a leader, widely loved and embraced in his community,” said Nigel Ballard, Internews Director of Community Radio. “He had great integrity, would never rush to judgment and was always fair. John was quiet, gentle and a deep thinker whose actions were informed by his commitments to open and independent journalism.”
John has committed his life to helping the people of South Sudan. When the civil war started in December 2013, John was working with Internews as the station coordinator at Naath FM in Leer. In the months that followed, his station was at the center of fighting that spread from Juba into the states. As the fighting intensified, John led his team as they faced intimidation from the opposition forces. As government forces moved closer, the station remained on air in order to keep the local civilian population informed, bravely broadcasting through incredible challenges. John and his reporters moved their families to safety in the surrounding countryside, before returning each day to keep the station on air, providing critical information and comfort to listeners in times of great distress. When government forces took the town in early 2014, there was widespread looting, and shortly after, John and his team fled into the bush and the radio station was destroyed. He was in hiding in the wilderness of the Nile wetlands for nearly two months before he was able to reach refuge in Juba. John led his team to return to Leer 6 months later, to rebuild the station and broadcast for another 8 months, before the war once again destroyed Naath FM.
As a journalist in South Sudan, John faced no shortage of challenges. “Journalists are being intimidated, detained, harassed, threatened and some lose their lives,” John said. “These are just a few of the challenges I face, and the list is endless.”
Undeterred, John passionately believed in what he was doing and was becoming one of South Sudan’s future leaders, in a country in great need of good leadership. Most recently, working with Internews, John accepted the challenge of developing and leading a network of community radio stations and was working with colleagues to set up a South Sudanese NGO that would manage and advocate for each station – The Radio Community. Over the last two years, John studied and developed his leadership skills. He was a member of the South Sudan Editors Forum and represented his country at the 2014 African Leaders Forum in Washington DC.
“What John would want now is for his work to continue and for independent journalism to thrive in South Sudan,” said Ballard. “He would want us all to keep working toward the day when everyone has access to the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”
John leaves behind a wife, Rebecca Chol Ngudeng Teny, and three children, Gong John Gatluak Manguet Nhial, Jenkuar John Gatluak Manguet Nhial and a new baby born the day after he died.
For those wishing to remember John, memorial contributions to help support his family are being collected. Please go to our donation page and enter “John Gatluak” in the Additional Information field.
For more stories about John Gatluak, please see the following: