To be in the reverse position sometimes is a little bit awkward… At least that was what I felt when the first time I had to host some journalists in Sudan. Prior to join United Nations (UN) I was a journalist for a local weekly newspaper in East Timor called, East Timor Sun. When I worked for East Timor Sun Newspaper, I was often being invited by UN to cover their occasions or projects. UN would take us, the media, to go to visit their projects, to interview people and take lots of pictures. Sometimes we had to go by car or even helicopter if the project site was far away. One day, our (UN) car was stuck in the mud in the middle of heavy rain when I was invited by United Nations Mission In East Timor (UNMISET) to cover the visit the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) in some rural area after militia attacked one village and raid the cattle of the villagers.
Six years later, the position is changed. I’m now the one who is hosting the media to visit UN projects and occasions. As I mentioned earlier, the first time I felt so awkward because I was in their position once.
My first experience in hosting journalists in Sudan was during the visit of the UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki-moon, in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, back in September 2007. At that time I was the focal point of the media who would like to cover the UN SG in Juba. Aside from the program itself, I had to take care of their accommodation, transportation, and be with them during the events to make sure they followed all the rules.
When I was asked to take up on this responsibility I was very nervous because I had to handle nearly 100 national and international media including BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, etc. Not to mention I also had to liaise with the Minister of Information and Communication of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). This was a huge task for me who was not even a year to join United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS) at that time, fortunately RA, my colleague from UNMIS HQ Khartoum, came to help me. I was very exhausted during the preparation but in the end I was grateful that the coverage of the whole programs went so well and everybody was happy!
The latest one was six months ago, I had to host five Khartoum-based national media (newspapers) visiting UN in Malakal, the town where I’m living and working now. I always mentioned about Malakal all the time, for those who don’t know where Malakal is, I will tell you now… Malakal is the capital of Upper Nile State in Southern Sudan and for your information, Southern Sudan has ten states in total. Malakal is located on the banks of White Nile just north of its confluence with the Sobat River.
Anyway, back to media visit…
It was a three-day program and mainly to show them both UN mission and UN agencies’ projects for the community. I took them to several projects such as school feeding project of World Food Program (WFP) in an elementary school called, Dar Salam; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s support project on the school’s building construction in Shaab Girls Basic School where 1,152 students were enrolled there; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s project to renovate police stations; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s project to support the fishermen and farmers; UNMIS vet hospital to help locals to treat their cattle; and finally UNMIS river transportation unit which is operated by Bangladeshi Navy.
The whole program was really fruitful, those journalists got most of the information they wanted, they took pictures, and interviewed people. Everything went as planned except for the weather. Somehow during the visit (the second day precisely) the rain was just suddenly pouring and it never stopped! We were not ready with our rubber boots so we finally had to walk with bare foot, we were simply dancing in the mud… A bit scary because it was very slippery and I was afraid to fall down into the mud but it was fun too! This is exactly how I feel everytime I hosted the media, I was a little bit nervous and afraid because they might quote me wrongly but somehow it was fun too because I used to be one of them!
At the end of the visit, my fellow journalists said that ‘Malakal visit’ was impressive and unforgettable… Dancing in the mud was the highlight! They were happy to see the ‘real’ face of Malakal (muddy and slippery) so they knew the real condition in Malakal. They promised to write something about it and apparently the promise was kept because Malakal finally became the headlines of most newspapers in Khartoum for the entire week!!!
This story was published at http://dreamerchant.com under the same title.