Sudan’s online media will be defined by finding opportunities in the face of challenges
In Sudan (among other nations), journalists face a dilemma of how to circumvent restrictions on press freedom. Certain topics are taboo within Sudan and discussing them in public can interfere with one’s livelihood. At the same time, contentious information must be shared in order to mobilize Sudanese citizens living abroad. How can Sudanese have an online voice given these challenges?
A forum held over the weekend in Khartoum, Sudan concluded that digital media can have a voice despite limited press freedom. The conference, organized by a German NGO, encouraged Sudanese media to embrace online opportunities that exist. Sometimes, one must forgo political commentary in lieu of economic gain. A digital audience exists in Sudan; nearly one-fifth of Sudan’s population is believed to have Internet access. Even a greater share of people living in Khartoum have access.
Sudan Tribune excellently summarized the core of the event:
Participants at the Khartoum forum heard from experts in their field on how innovative business models can generate alternative revenues for publishing companies, ways journalists can diversify their incomes, how new technologies can enhance the quality of Sudanese journalism and methodologies to improve access to information.
Key takeaways from the conference, also provided by Sudan Tribune, include:
- Income levels are not inhibiting Sudanese from embracing social media as much as one would expect (“tea ladies and rickshaw drivers are accessing Facebook and mobile internet”).
- Instead of hiding due to press limitations, there are opportunities in fields such as tourism, entertainment, and lifestyle.
- Online advertising is limited to telecommunications operators and banks.
- Reporting on Darfur, politics, President al-Bashir, the ICC, or genocide is not allowed.
Of course, despite certain opportunities, not every journalist will want to pursue writing about tourism, for example. Laws concerning the freedom of expression need to change.