International Justice/ICC: Apr ‘09

IWPR training guide will help dispel misinformation about International Criminal Court, say Sudanese journalists.

International Justice/ICC: Apr ‘09

IWPR training guide will help dispel misinformation about International Criminal Court, say Sudanese journalists.

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009

Sudanese journalists say a new IWPR war crimes justice training manual will significantly improve their ability to report on international justice, local trials, and the work of the International Criminal Court, ICC, in Darfur.

The training guide (Assignment Justice: A practical guide for Sudanese journalists) – which is aimed at journalists from Sudan in particular – will also help to tackle widespread misconceptions about the ICC’s work in the country, they say.

The manual – which has been refined after being piloted in workshops held for Sudanese journalists in Khartoum, Juba and The Hague – draws on the project team’s training experience in other countries in which the ICC is active, such as Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

It leads journalists through all the steps necessary to provide fair and comprehensive reports on often complex legal subject matter.

“I think the manual will indeed give Sudanese journalists more clues and [guidance] on reporting on international justice,” said Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam, who works with Radio Dabanga, a radio station run by Darfuris in The Netherlands and broadcasting into Darfur in Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit dialects, as well as in Arabic.

“It not only provides information about the structure and the way the ICC functions, but also highlights the importance of international justice as a prerequisite for peace and stability.

“Given the scarcity of such information and the difficulty in obtaining it in Sudan, the manual can be a proper reference for journalists because it gives them all necessary, practical and basic information they need.

“It will also dispel misunderstandings concerning international justice in Sudan. Misconceptions are widely spread across the country because of a combination of strong government propaganda and a lack of information, but with this manual to hand, journalists [will be able to] report more accurately and professionally.”

Another Radio Dabanga journalist, who preferred not to be named, said, “The manual is beneficial for Sudanese journalists because many of them don't know how the court functions.

“I think the manual will clarify misconceptions surrounding international justice, because most Sudanese journalists don't know the reasons behind the establishment of the court.”

Sudan has around 30 newspapers, both in English and Arabic, and only about eight are considered independent. Reporters working in the country face particular challenges, such as government intimidation and censorship.

Newspapers can be closed and editors imprisoned for printing articles unfavourable to the authorities.

Editors have told that following the arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir in March, Khartoum’s censorship practices have intensified.

This month, the ICC project posted a piece by an IWPR-trained Sudan-based reporter about journalists and politicians’ opposition to proposed legislation to formalise these strict controls over news media.

Storm Over Press Law by Ahmed Ilsheik in Khartoum was published on May 13.

Sudanese journalists say they lack tools to do their jobs, including the ability to ask critical questions and to publish probing articles.

Many are forced to attend government press conferences and simply report what ministers say. Few have had opportunity for practical, hands-on training.

Also in April, an ICC project story about Congolese newspaper editor Ngoy Kikungula wa Maloba – who was imprisoned for six months in Lubumbashi prison for publishing an article about advancing Rwandan rebels – was republished on diaspora websites.

Tito Kanza who runs the weekly Brussels-based C-Retro Actuel site, said the article highlighted problems faced by journalists in DRC. “Today, the job of a journalist [in the country] is a risky business,” said Kanza.

Tom Bashizi, a trainee lawyer in Brussels, said the article gave the outside world a glimpse at living conditions in Congolese prisons.

“In addition to [overcrowding], the instability and [poor] conditions [in jails] have to be stressed. It is really hell. It is an original article that brings us to tears,” said Bashizi.

Meanwhile, radio stations in Belgium have continued to broadcast the IWPR radio show Face a La Justice to Congolese ex-pats.

The host of Radio Panik, Jules M, said that many listeners commented on a particular programme about the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former head of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, MLC.

According to Jules M, Face a La Justice programmes have also provoked discussion about the fate of Laurent Nkunda, former leader of the National Congress for the People's Defense, CNDP, who is currently detained in Rwanda.

Marie Henriette Luvengika from Radio Campus said, “These Face a La Justice radio programmes are interesting and enable [us] to report on the opinion [of people in the field] on various topics, notably Nkunda’s case [and] the impunity granted to Bosco Ntaganda.”

Ntaganda, who is wanted by the ICC, was recently drafted into the Congolese army, which shows no signs of handing him over to The Hague.

Eugene Bakama Bope, an IWPR contributor in Brussel, helped put together this report.

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