Two South Sudanese journalists have scooped separate international awards this week.
David Mono Danga and Waakhe Simon Wudu both report for Voice of America’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Mono Danga is among 12 regional journalists to have jointly won the third prize in the 2020 Fetisov Journalism Awards in Switzerland.
He contributed to Sucked Dry, an investigation published in 2018 by journalists across the Nile basin countries of South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Egypt. Some journalists from the US and Italy helped in the investigation.
It tells how huge swaths of land acquired by foreign investors in Africa’s Nile River Basin export profits, and displace communities.
Mr. Mono particularly worked on the involvement of Green Horizon agricultural company in the acquisition of land and how communities were affected.
This is the first award Mono-Danga has won in his journalism career.
Despite the tough working conditions, journalist Mono says he believes the award gives hope for professional journalism that enables citizens to make informed decisions in the affairs of the country.
Mr. Mono who started his journalism career eight years ago says the late Alfred Taban inspired him.
Meanwhile, in the Nile Media Awards of 2021, another South Sudanese journalist, Waakhe Simon Wudu also scooped an award for his reporting on the Nile basin.
He was awarded for extensive coverage on tackling the growing challenges of water scarcity.
The story broadcast on Voice of America radio in 2019, underscores how countries sharing the river Nile need to cooperate in tackling growing challenges resulting from the shared resource.
The Nile river basin contains over 10% of Africa’s landmass, in 11 countries: Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Kenya.
However, there have been growing tensions over the use of the Nile waters in recent years.
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have been involved in a dispute over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, on the Blue Nile –about 20 kilometers upstream from Sudan.
Mr. Waakhe’s reporting encourages cooperation on the management of Nile water resources as it is shared by the Nile Basin countries.
He says the award motivates him to take his journalism career to another level.
Mr. Waakhe encourages aspiring journalists and other media colleagues to stay focused to raise the bar.
“Focus, work hard and be passionate about what you are doing despite the challenges,” he said.
“You cannot raise to another level if you don’t penetrate through these challenges. Where you are specialized as a journalist or whether you are aspiring to be a journalist, know that there are challenges but amidst these challenges, there are opportunities.”
South Sudan has been an insecure ground for the work of media practitioners since the country gained independence.
Since independence in 2011, dozens of reporters have been subjected to intimidation, arrest, censorship and violence, according to rights groups.
Many journalists have reportedly abandoned the profession and some left the country due to what they a “hostile” media environment.
According to this year’s press freedom index, South Sudan dropped one place to number 139 out of 180 countries.