Bound for Juba from Cairo, I am nearly through a 24-hour journey. As I head for the world's newest nation I am experiencing some old feelings; the excitement of the unknown, slight trepidation about what lies ahead, and a passionate belief in the tasks the work we’re setting out to do. It’s not unlike how I felt when I traveled to Rwanda with Carleton University in 2006 to help mentor journalism students in a country devastated by genocide. And so a return to Africa is long overdue.

My final destination is Juba, South Sudan, population 300,000. It’s a part of the world about which most of us know very little, so first some facts on South Sudan:

  • It gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of conflict.
  • The triumph was met with short-lived hope and optimism. Fighting erupted in December 2013 and South Sudan was suddenly at war with itself.
  • Tens of thousands have died.
  • In 2014 Canada named this landlocked nation in northeastern Africa a 'Country of Focus' for development.
  • Just four months ago Ottawa opened its first embassy in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.

By now you’re likely asking, why? Why go to a part of the world burdened with so much hardship and corruption? Here’s why:

CTV News has partnered with a media development organization called Journalists for Human Rights. Since 2002 the organization has trained 13,000 journalists in 22 of the world's most challenging countries. Its mission is to empower local journalists to tell human rights stories effectively and objectively. Trainers have found that immediately after conflict is the best time to intervene because it is often when the media can make the most significant impact in demonstrating the importance of human rights to nation building. That was enough for me.

When the media is silenced, everyone is silenced. Journalists in South Sudan do not enjoy the same freedoms we do in Canada. They work in incredibly challenging circumstances, often risking their lives to uncover truth.


So what are my expectations? In short, I have none. I'll be working at a television station called CTV (Citizen Television in Juba!). I don't know much about how they operate, what kind of technology they have or how they get on the air each night. I hope the reporters and I can share our respective experiences and work together to tell strong stories that create change. If we do that just once, this will have been worthwhile. Every story counts. Every voice deserves to be heard.

I'll be blogging here throughout the next four weeks. I'd love to hear what you’d like to hear about. Tweet me at @KHounsellCTV

It has already been a very long day (night?), but this journey to journalism is just getting started!