By: Daniel Juol Nhomngek,KAMPALA,JUN/29/2014, SSN;
The First Law of Journalism is to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it. All journalists must strive to follow this first law of journalism, which implies that all journalists who report must give information as it is but not what they think should be reported.
It implies that every journalist must strive to avoid their personal interest overriding his or her duty in informing public in fair and balanced manner. Journalism serves two main purposes.
First, when a journalist gives true information on progress of the government, it helps the government to reform in the way it governs, which is beneficial to the citizens and it also helps citizens to know the origin of the problems affecting them and to be able to fight against those problems.
Contrary to the above, bad practice in journalism gives false information which makes people vulnerable and guilty of the crime they have not committed and further depict evil to be angel, which seeks to throw the son of God into hell. This was the implication of the recent report on SudanTribune about Lakes State.
The recent report entitled: lakes: pastoralist youth desert counties, threaten attacks against state that appeared on SudanTribune on June 23, 2014 showed how bad practice in the journalism affects understanding of the people of a given information in general.
In that report, reporter reported that thousands of youth had deserted their cattle camps and headed for the bush where they were threatening to launch an offensive against the state government if military caretaker governor Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol goes ahead with a disarmament initiative.
Further in that report, a senior police officer was quoted to have said, “They (pastoralist youths) have deserted counties headquarters and cattle camps and now youth are camping in [the] jungle with threats that if disarmament is declared they will launch attacks [against the] state administration”.
The report further went on to give many other unrelated reasons to the issue of youth leaving counties, which the journalist who reported the information used in an attempt to back up his belief as to why the youth in Lakes State wanted to launch a war against the government of Lakes State which include:
– unlawful removal of scholarship that was granted to the students by the former Lakes State Governor Chol Tong, which led to thousands of students dropping out of school due to the fact that their sources of funding was stopped,
– the refusal of President Kiir to remove Matur or refusal Matur to resigns and
– inability of Matur to stop insecurity as some of the reasons for youth wanting to launch an offensive against the government of Lakes State because youth according to the report wanted Maj. General Matur to leave the office.
What has to be noted onset about the report is that although what happened was true as the plan to disarm the youth was announced, it is not however true that youth have deserted counties to go to the bush and camp there and also gave the warning to the government that they would attack the government if it went on with plan to disarm them.
The assertion made in the above paragraph was proved by the information that I got when I carried out research and finding on the report. For instance, when I came across the news on SudanTribune on June 23, 2014, it caught my attention and as a result, I immediately carried out the research to find out the veracity of the report by contacting many people on ground in Lakes State in order to confirm the validity of the report.
Many people whom I spoke to through phone and chatted with them on Facebook told me that what was published on SudanTribune was not correct and it was not the true reflection of what had happened in Lakes State.
For instance, Peter Kot, one of the people who made a comment on Facebook page about the news vehemently rubbished the publication by succinctly saying that the publication was wrong and it was intended to achieve political point.
In his own words, he wrote “Brothers and sisters, that information, to me I fail to understand it, because, they youth are not in place of politic as they run to the bush, it’s because they have heard the disarmament that will take place in Lake, that’s why they have to escape to touch, where they soldiers cannot reach for disarmament, that’s my understanding as I am here in the ground, but, what the journalist says is not true on the media.”
The above statement by Peter Kot carries some high level of truth and it is actually valid. It backs what I suspected to be the reason behind the youth running into bushes if some youth had actually done so based on personal experience on issues of guns and the youth of Lakes State.
In truth disarming youth in Lakes State is a tag of war and is always problematic to the government since in some instances even can involve bloodshed. It can involve bloodshed because the youth in Lakes State love guns to a greater extent. Such love can sometime make them appear to have natural affinity for guns.
Hence, when it comes to disarmament, the youth can do anything to retain their guns or can even grab guns from anybody who carries the gun in a lousy manner or even to the point of killing the person to get gun. All these however, should not be taken to mean that the youth in Lakes State have a problem with the government of Lakes or the government of South Sudan or anybody.
The youth in Lakes State do not have any problem with anybody but their problem is related to guns and can do anything even if it means killing or giving up their lives to get or retain guns.
The major example to illustrate the validity of the assertion in the above paragraph is the recent incidence involving some of the SPLA soldiers from Aweil who deserted frontline from Unity. On their way back to Aweil some of those soldiers passed through Lakes State.
As they were passing there and on reaching Cueibet County, one of the cattle keepers there came from nowhere, pounced on one of the soldiers with the lighting speed and grabbed the gun and made away with it. It took the effort of the whole community in that area to recover the gun and returned it to the owner.
The example above illustrated that the youth in Lakes do not have a problem with anybody but what they need only are guns. However, to someone who lacks critical reasoning or wants to achieve certain hidden political agenda, he or she can easily twist the whole truth and portray the whole community like that of Cueibet that it has a problem with the SPLA in general which is not true.
However, a good analyst can easily dismiss such allegation as lies and false. What a Good analyst does before reaching conclusion on any problem is to assess the whole transactions and the intentions before concluding that a certain person or group of persons has a problem because it is in rare cases where on action constitutes a problem.
One problem is always treated to be an isolated problem. In relation to the statement in the foregoing sentence, what happened in Cueibet County to that particular SPLA Soldier can be treated as isolated incident; it cannot be understood that people of Cueibet County in Lakes have any problem with the SPLA.
As clearly explained above as an illustration to make the point I am trying to explain clear, the youth of Lakes State did not warn the government or even threatened the government with the intention of revolting against the government (if they had actually given any warning) but the youth might have intended to send the message to the government that they are not opposing disarming but they could not be disarmed before the government has ensured their security and safety in general.
In my opinion in relation to the above argument, the youth are right to retain their guns. This is because at the moment in Lakes State, there is a high level of lawlessness and any reasonable government cannot think of disarming people without reasonable assurances of their protection from both internal and external threat.
As a matter of right, the youth in Lakes State are granted right to life under the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. Article 11 of that Constitution provides that every person has the inherent right to life, dignity and the integrity of his or her person which shall be protected by law and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.
The interpretation of Article 11 is that the government of South Sudan has the duty to provide security for every South Sudanese, which implies that if the government is not capable of protecting youth then the youth have right to ensure their own safety.
This means that the youth, therefore, have inherent right to protect themselves if the government has failed to protect them, which further means that they have a right to refuse to be disarmed because they have an inherent right to life, which involves right to self-defense.
In relation to the above argument, implies that where neighbouring states are not disarmed, then the youth in Lakes State should not be disarmed because they can easily be attacked by the youth from neighbouring states unless the government takes practical steps to show that it will protect them when disarmed.
In fact, disarming the youth in Lakes State can leave them highly vulnerable to the two communities of Warrap State and Unity State. It is, therefore, important for the welfare of the youth of Lakes State to be left with their guns to protect themselves from external aggression or cattle raids until the time when government of South Sudan comes up with policy of disarming the whole population of South Sudan not only youth in Lakes State.
In addition, without politics behind, civilians in Lakes State cannot be disarmed at this time when there is a threat from White Armies of Riek Machar who are disguised in rebellion clothing but ruthless and merciless militias who can eliminate the whole society if the people do not have any power to defend themselves.
This was witnessed in case of Bentiu sometime back when rebel took control of Bentiu and massacred many civilians there.
Therefore, the youth or people of Lakes State have rights to retain their guns under all circumstances, which involve running into the bush to hide if the government does not reason in according to their safety or provide them with adequate security. This means that running into bush and hiding there with guns should not be interpreted as revolting against Lakes State government because it is a matter of practical and survival.
In fact, the youth in Lakes State as I know did not warn the government with the intention of joining rebellion or staging a war against the government. This is because it is not their major interest to overthrow the government.
The major interest of the cattle keepers in Lakes State does not lie in politics but they need government to respect and protect them or ensuring that they are allowed to protect their interests and themselves.
As analyzed above, it has to be partly concluded that in any case, if some youth had run into the bush from any county in Lakes State, then they did not run into the bush with the intention of joining rebellion but they were trying to escape disarmament which is a common phenomenon with the youth in the cattle camps in Lakes State.
Running into the bush by the youth with guns in Lakes State should not be taken advantage of, by journalists who wants to exploit to their advantage the prevailing problems of Lakes State but it should be understood that youth who ran into the bush and hid there, wanted to remind the government that the problems of Lakes State are not gun but underlying and deep-rooted problems which are they cause of many people to carry guns.
The youth in Lakes State are in other words informing the world that the government in Lakes State has failed to address the underlying issues that cause people to fight among themselves and also with their neighbours. Therefore, the cause of the problems as the government perceives it is not guns but the problems that cause people to carry guns and to endlessly kill each other. It is important to stress that guns are only effects of the cause.
Establishing the cause of the problems and provide proper solutions for them should be the first priority for any government in Lakes State. When Matur was appointed by the president to be a care taker governor, he was welcomed by all people in Lakes State.
The people of Lakes State welcomed him thinking that he would bring a solution to Lakes State problems given his personal background. Many people know Matur to be a real SPLM and a good SPLA fighter since 1980s.
However, when he took charge of Lakes State affairs, he disappointed the people by putting personal interest above the State and that of the people. As result, corruption becomes rampant.
He started taxing people exorbitantly and suspending employees without reasonable examination. All these corrupt practices were being carried in the state just to build Matur’s personal wealth and empire, hence throwing state into further problems.
The corruption and corrupt practices throws the state into the problems of killing and cattle raiding as they become endemic among the people of Lakes State. This is because it is in the interest of Matur and his government for the state to remain without law since restoring law and order would deny Matur prerogative power to dismiss employees without prior notice.
The operation of law was suspended as the interest of the government to building wealth materials benefits was overwhelming, hence, leaving the state in a situation where every person lives for himself or herself and God for them all.
The above the explanation is the background as to why youth in Lakes State are not ready to give up guns. SudanTribune was supposed to have explained these issues well to help government to get proper solutions to the problems of Lakes State.
However, instead helping people of Lakes State through exposing to the public of South Sudan and also to the whole world what is exactly happening in Lakes State, SudanTribune reported the situation in a distorted manner through fabricating and falsifying the events.
Actually, the journalist who published the report on SudanTribune in such a manner appears to have some hidden agenda behind the shadow of journalism, which is the most appropriate and logical conclusion that can be reached by any reasonable person. The same conclusion was reached by James Majuong on Facebook.
In his comment, James Majuong commented and I quote, “the self claimed journalist without professional ethics has since been a critic of Gen. Matur Chut government and is therefore hiding himself under the shadow of journalism instead of coming out clearly as a known critic.”
The comment from James indicates two things. First of all, it indicates that the people of Lakes State are aware of the one who published that particular news from Lakes State on SudanTribune and such knowledge can offer deeper understanding of what the report wanted to achieve. Second to it, the comment shows that some journalists have failed to uphold professional ethics of journalism.
In my opinion SudanTribune has allowed journalists to report news without imposing on them journalistic code to report true and valid information as demanded by the principles of journalism, which explains why some journalists SudanTribune report such distorted information which clear show the interest of the journalist who report the news.
Ethics of journalism as mentioned in the above paragraph according to Joseph Medill are that journalists must preserve their independence of all demagogues and place-hunters and never submit to their dictation; write boldly and tell the truth fearlessly; criticize whatever is wrong, and denounced whatever is rotten in the administration of their local and state affairs, no matter how much it may offend the guilty or wound the would-be leaders of their party.
Based on the above ethical codes, journalists must make an earnest and conscientious journal; establish its reputation for truth and reliability, frankness and independence. Hence, under no circumstances should journalists allow themselves to willfully deceive the people, or trifle with their confidence. This is because journalism like any other profession is a noble calling. Hence, working journalist is to report, write, and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.
As stated above, it implies that whatever the journalists report must be accurate and should create little disagreement over its veracity. Where people who read any works of journalists are not satisfied with such works, then there is a great problem with the journalists who report the news; in other words, such journalists are incompetent and not fit for journalism works. Up to this point the report was not reflecting what was happening in Lakes State.
Another point which shows the report was not true is that the report general. In that report or publication, the reporter wrote that thousands of youth had deserted their counties and had gone to camp in the bush and ready to attack if the government went on with disarmament initiative.
Concerning the issue of generality of the information, it is important to stress that journalists in their work of reporting and publishing news are supposed to give specific information with verifiable facts to support their points, which means that journalists must always have facts to back up the news the report.
As explained above, the report was not specific. It was not specific whether the youth were from all counties of Lakes or from one county. Lakes State as it is known has eight counties, which include: Cueibet County, Rumbek North, Rumbek East, Rumbek Centre, Yirol West and East, Awecriel and Wulu. The message which the publication gives when one reads that report on SudanTribune is that youth from eight counties deserted their counties and went to the forest to hide and if possible stage rebellion against the government.
With due respect to the report, it was too general to be true to the understanding of any normal person. This is because unless it is backed up by the information from where it occurred or from the eyewitness on the ground where it took place but the report did not explain this, what the report gave was the statement from senior police officer who did not reveal his identity, which needs further corroboration from additional witnesses.
In order to confirm the report as it appeared on SudanTribune, I took initiative to contact the people in Cueibet and the report that I received from those people I spoke with stated that there were no youth who had deserted Cueibet County. The reason I contacted Cueibet first was because it is where I come from and they can tell me the truth.
The information that I received from Cueibet County that there were no youth who deserted the county was also confirmed by other four Counties in Lakes State of Awecriel, Yirol West and East, Rumbek North and Wullu.
In addition, some people who made comment on Facebook on the same issue, concerning deserting counties by the youth and went to camp in the bush confirmed that there was nothing of the sort which took place. Peter Mading on Lakes State People All Over The World on June 24 at 10:46pm wrote explaining that the information published on SudanTribune was false and wrong.
Lakes State People All Over The World is a Facebook page opened for the people of Lakes State Worldwide where they post their comments or information or clarification for some information wrongly reported for the consumption of the people of Lakes State. In his comment on that Facebook, Peter Mading wrote and I quote “…The information I got does not in any way show youth of “counties” which i belief does not include youth of greater Yirol, Cueibet, Wullu n Rumbek North, going to the bush to launch an offensive attack against the State government but show something peculiar to some specific youth of Rumbek centre n Rumbek East which i belief will not help them at all”.
Peter Mading goes on to appeal to the Journalist who published the article on SudanTribune to stop generalizing counties. He said, “…., I appeal to my curiosity journalist to refrain from betraying our people…preaching hatred… Sectionalism…..community vices… Refrain from generalizing the counties because what is happening in Rumbek Counties n Cueibet is not happening in Greater Yirol….As a concern citizen I posted this so that any peace loving persons should condemn such a move or a report…. It is not helping us or shows our intellectual ability… Or wisdom…n if there is a need to rebel…, avoid generalizing the whole youth of counties….let the report be specific to avoid ambiguity ……..”
Indeed as Peter Mading pointed out in his comment on that Facebook, SudanTribune always fabricates and falsifies the issues when it comes to the Lakes State problems because the journalists who report has allowed himself to be driven by personal political ambition hence losing the battle in holding the professional ethics of journalism.
To make it clear, what is happening in Rumbek Counties and Cueibet and not happening in Yirol as Peter Mading touched in his comment has anything to do with rebellion against the government but it is concerning the tribal skirmishes that has been going on for decades and should not therefore be taken to mean that youth are against the government.
Instead, the people of Lakes State are looking up to the government to bring solutions to their problems but the government is too weak to address the problems that are facing them. As a result, the problems go on unabated but instead of SudanTribune with its journalists reporting and publishing the real problems as they are, they twist the report to fit a certain interest they want to achieve. Hence, explaining the main reason behind that report which was published about the youth deserting counties.
Someone may ask that if the people of Lakes State know their own problems why they don’t solve them. Right question as it may appear, but the problems of Lakes State are very serious and grave in nature and civilians alone cannot sit face to face to talk them out and if possible finding the solutions to them without resulting into fighting on that spot.
As stated above, the problems in Lakes State involve many killings, which in some countries like the USA, Canada, or any other developed countries would have been considered as war crimes. Therefore, the people of Lakes State need a third party like government to mediate between them and if possible punish those who commit crimes and then set and enforce laws.
The people of Lakes State need the government to restore peace, rule of law and justice, which are traditional duties of the government in order to assure them the governmental protection. The failure by the government to meet these demands make youth mistrust government and trust themselves and the guns for their own protection.
It should further be stressed that the failure of government to protect them has made the youth to deeply trust their guns as the only weapons which can give them maximum protection. This is why they do not want the government to disarm them before they are assured of protection.
Any attempt by the government to forcefully disarm the youth in Lakes State without assuring them of adequate protection is like depriving them of their lives and by implication it means that they can confront the government before they are rendered helpless to be massacred by cattle raiders from within Lakes State and other neighbouring states.
It is the ground as explained above that made Lakes State youth (if there were any) to run away when the government announced the plan to disarm them. It is important to point out that the long war, which was accompanied by many injustices orchestrated by north against Citizens in Lakes State and injustices that the people committed among themselves without redress has caused a lot of misgiving and mistrust that has further caused different tribes in Lakes State to view each other with contempt and enmity.
Therefore, when the government comes up with any programme of disarming the people, which it considers to be the solution of Lakes State problems, people are not always ready and willing to accept to be disarmed because they feel that they are going to be killed defenselessly. This is why the people of Lakes State always view a programme concerning disarmament with suspicion since they do not trust the government to give them maximum protection both within Lakes State and externally.
Hence, when the government comes up with a programme to disarm the youth, they view such a programme as a means of disempowering them, which will leave them vulnerable to internal and external attacks, and above all, they see such move as a means of depriving them of the source of power to protect their property, which in this case involving their cattle.
In relation to the above, it means that the youth can easily run away when they hear the remorse about disarmament and hide in the bush as a means of avoiding being disarmed by the government without assurances for adequate protection. This further means that if the government insists on disarmament, they can give warning to the government not to disarm them and those who report news should not take such a warning as revolting by the youth against the government.
It should rather be understood that the youth in Lakes State give warning to the government as a way of reminding the government of South Sudan that it has failed to protect them so they have inherent right to take up guns and protect themselves if need arises.
Another fact that needs to be understood involving disarmament programme in Lakes State is that the government sends soldiers that were recruited without any training to disarm the youth, which means that they are not able to respect privacy and dignity of gun-holders, and as a result, the youth who are to be disarmed become defensive and ready to fight their oppressors as they view them.
It is important to stress further that the government of South Sudan before disarming cattle keepers must train a group of people how to disarm the civilians without tempering with the human rights and personal dignity of guns holders.
The government also overlooks another crucial issue of what should be done after the gun holder is disarmed. For instance, majority of the youth in Lakes State buy those guns with more than one cows. This implies that the holder of that particular gun needs to be paid because he has proprietary interest in the guns, which constitutes a right to property in the sense of law.
All the above complications explain why youth wants to avoid disarmament by all costs and if possible they are even ready to fight in order to retain their guns, which explain, if any, why they run into bush and hid there.
Therefore, any journalist who is interested in finding out the problems of Lakes State should not only report what happened but he or she should also report why did it happen as it happened. SudanTribune and the Journalist who reported that Youth in Lakes State had deserted the counties should have not only reported why they ran into bush and ready to fight the government but should have further gone ahead to interview the youth as to why they do not want to be disarmed by the government.
However, given the fact that some journalists are not trained on the principles and ethical values of journalism, they turn to exploit the ignorance, illiteracy of the people, preying on their vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse as Janet Malcolm observed in 1990 in The Journalist and the Murderer.
Most of the Journalists like the one who published the news about Lakes State on SudanTribune on June 23, 2014 look impressive to the gullible, but in real sense, is something that cannot be adored simply because they are not right and honest in reporting.
Failure to observe the principles or ethical principles of journalism as explained above is dangerous to the public welfare because the news poisons public perception and changes their attitude hence covering up the real problems which needs the real solution.
For instance, the youth in Lakes State do not want to fight government per se but they warn government not to disarm them without proper protection and it is on this point which the journalist who report should have concentrated on in order to inform the government to protect the citizens.
Instead, the reporter reported the situation in Lakes State as if the youth in Lakes State have a problem with the government of South Sudan, which is not true.
In summary, the report was full of lies, falsification and fabrication of the facts, which indicates ethical irresponsibility of the one who reported and published the news on SudanTribune.
The report in addition is an affront to the noble calling of journalism, full of political vice and blown out of proportion and context. Journalism like law is a noble calling and must be guarded against publishing unfounded information and against being marred with personal interest, which will in turn affect the public interest.
It is in the public interest that journalist should publish real and true information from the true source. It, therefore, implies that whether someone hates a person or not, justice must be done to that person when it comes to report about him or her. As I believe that the reason for reporting is not to destroy the person or government but to see that the government change for better.
In short, as far as I know, what happened in Lakes State was correct because the disarmament plan was announced but it was not true that the youth in Lakes State in all counties had run to the bush and warned the government of any attack if the government went on with plan to disarm them. If such warning was given then it was not given by the youth from all counties.