BY: Agok Takpiny, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, OCT/13/2014, SSN;
On 5 October 2014, Mr J. Nguen from Canada wrote an article entitled: “Gurtong Trust: A revenge-preaching & killing machine- why Norway, UK & the Swiss fund it”?
That article evoked the editor, Mr Jacob J. Akol of “The Gurtong Trust-Peace and Media Project” to respond to Mr J. Nguen on what he thinks was grossly inappropriate (which I agree) in Mr J. Nguen’S article.
As he went on to explain the position of his organization (Gurtong Trust-Peace and Media Project) on South Sudan issues, Mr Jacob Akol said that and I quote “Gurtong does not publish hate speeches. Period. If there is anything against Gurtong, it is the uniform rejection of publication of hate speeches or extremely biased opinions without balance. When on occasions we publish a seemingly biased opinion, we try to balance it with a similar counter opinion. We do not publish hate speeches against anyone, including Riek Machar and Kiir Mayardit.”
This is where I got involved, I am one of the people whose articles have been continually rejected by Gurtong. And I find the statement (“If there is anything against Gurtong, it is the uniform rejection of publication of hate speeches or extremely biased opinions without balance”) by Mr Jacob Akol somewhat offensive.
At first glance, any conscious individual would give the above quotation by Mr Jacob Akol a nod. There is nothing wrong with what he said, it is rightly put and this is supposedly a standard which the public would expect from all media platforms to adhere to.
However, for somebody like me who has put that statement to the test, I have anecdotal evidence to suggest that Mr Jacob Akol put his own interest above that of the organization that employed him.
According to Gurtong Trust-Peace and Media Project charter, the supposedly organizational activities would be to promote peace by either originating ideas or by taking opinions deemed to foster peace from all concerned South Sudanese and share it with its readership for wider outreach through its media platform.
However, Mr Akol makes the objectivity or any peace substances in any opinion article the last criteria when determining whether to publish that opinion article or not.
Like many managers or editors, every position has its powers and discretion bestowed upon the occupant of the position. I therefore can understand if Mr Jacob Akol decided to reject all opinion articles including mine.
He can either do it by explaining his reasons why or he can simply refuse without providing the reason why the articles cannot be published. If that was the case, I would have found no reason to feel exasperated with Mr Jacob Akol.
However, the idea that all articles which Mr Jacob Akol refused to publish in his internet base media are “hate speeches or extremely biased opinions without balance” is simply irresponsible and sorely lacking validity.
Does Mr Akol really understand what is “hate speech, bias and unbalance” opinions and how to identify one?
On the 29th of June this year, I wrote an article entitled “How the rampant embezzlement can be wrestled: Open letter to Pres. Kiir” (http://www.southsudannation.com/?s=open+letter+to+president+kiir) which Gurtong have published.
In that article, I explained the areas where there are shortcomings (in my opinion) in regard to fighting corruption in South Sudan. I criticized the system and individuals like Deng Alor, who immensely contributed in helping the system to fail (by looting public monies when they are the ones to supposedly safeguard it).
However, like many of my opinions, I ended that article with some recommendations which in my opinion would work if implemented.
Fast forward, on 25 September 2014, I wrote an article entitled: “Spare us from further humiliation & put the damn expat expulsion circular on the shelf” (http://www.southsudannation.com/spare-us-from-further-humiliation-put-the-damn-expat-expulsion-circular-on-the-shelf/).
This article was about the circular which the minister of Labour issued to some businesses and NGOs that employed foreign nationals. Like my other article which was published by Gurtong, I explained what in my opinion was wrong with the circular that the minister had issued. Also I rebuked the claimant and some derogatory comments made by our East African neighbours against us (South Sudanese) in the wake of the circular.
On the same note, I ended that article with some recommendations. There was nothing in this article to suggest that it was a “hate speech, bias or unbalanced”. However, Gurtong has refused to publish it.
Finally, I wrote another article on the 6 October 2014 which goes with the title: “Why the Lakes state conflict is a result of a continuous misdiagnosis of its genesis”? (http://www.southsudannation.com/why-the-lakes-state-conflict-is-a-result-of-a-continuous-misdiagnosis-of-its-genesis/).
Since this article is still fresh, I assumed that many of the readers still remember it. Thus, I will not go to its details again.
However, on the positive note, whether it is a mere coincidence or not, one of my recommendations in this article has been picked up and is currently underway to be partially implemented.
And I must thank the editor Dr Peter Wankomo of Southsudannation.com and “paanluelwel.com: South Sudanese bloggers” by giving all South Sudanese a platform to voice their opinions in regard to the issues plaguing our country.
In this article I recommended that all heads (those who act as some sort of the council) of the cattle camps together with the traditional chiefs to be integrated into the Lakes state government to foster a two-way communication between the state government and the grassroots community as a remedy to settle the seemingly uncontrollable violence in the state.
I suggested that they be also included in the government’s payroll and be paid like any other employees.
This is exactly what the commissioner of the Rumbek central county is about to do. According to the 12 October 2014 news published on https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/lakes-state-galweng-mobilized-community-police.
“The commissioner of the Rumbek Centre County is mobilizing the Galweng militia to restore order to South Sudan’s Lakes state. Mawet Manuer Khok said 70 Galweng youth will be recruited from cattle camps to serve as community police… Khok said the Galweng (cattle keepers) will be paid for their services”.
I am not claiming that the commissioner is doing what I said should be done, but the fact that this initiative came barely six days after publishing the article is enough to suggest that the commissioner or his aide has picked up the idea from here which by the way was precisely the intention of the article in the first place.
This article is far from hate speech and it is not bias, however, Mr Jacob Akol has refused to publish it. Who knows, if Gurtong had published this article, those whose other recommendations (dowry price and blood money) fall under their responsibilities, but may only be Gurtong readers would have picked up the ideas and evaluated it to see if they can implement it.
In conclusion, if Mr Jacob Akol put the Gurtong values into the dustbin and choose to deliberately reject supposedly fair opinions on the pretext that they are hate speeches or bias, then he is simply serving his personal interest and not that of the organisation which employed him.
On the other hand, if Mr Jacob Akol is working according to the Gurtong charter, he then simply have no capacity to comprehend and identify what equates to “hate speech or bias” and what is not.
Disclaimer: views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author. Agok Takpiny is a concerned South Sudanese in Melbourne Australia. He can be reached on email@example.com