Wednesday, September 13, 2017
On September 13th, The Correspondent published an article about Radio Tamazuj and Free Press Unlimited. In this article, Free Press Unlimited is accused of censoring Radio Tamazuj and of denying the editors of Radio Tamazuj access to their website. These claims, which come from a disgruntled former employee, are demonstrably untrue, and could have been refuted immediately if The Correspondent had contacted us directly for a response to these claims.

Update September 15th, 11:55: The original article that was sent to us for response before publication, contained over 40 factual inaccuracies. Part of the text which contained these errors was left out of the article that was published on September 13th, 2017. Download the PDF with the 31 inaccuracies below. 

Errors in article The Correspondent

Radio Tamazuj is of life-and-death importance to hundreds of thousand of South-Sudanese listeners. The programmes and articles of Radio Tamazuj are being produced under the responsibility of Free Press Unlimited. The independence of the editors is determined in the editorial charter. This way of working is commonplace in media development, and can be compared to the relationship between a publisher and the editors within media companies.

As for all of its projects, Free Press Unlimited aims for Radio Tamazuj to become a strong and independent local media company. In July 2017, Free Press Unlimited and the editors of Radio Tamazuj have had extensive discussions about the future of Radio Tamazuj. We are working on quality improvement, sustainable business models and we are and will remain an advocate of independence of Radio Tamazuj. As of 2020, Radio Tamazuj will be self-sustainable. At the request of the editors, we will take plenty of time for this process.

In the context of the discussion about applying the principal of an adversarial process, the phrase 'Try not to bite the hand of the person who is feeding you.' was used. We acknowledge that this was wrong and an unfortunate choice of words. 

The article on The Correspondent contains dozens of factual inaccuracies, we will name the most prominent four. We shared these inaccuracies with The Correspondent prior to the publication with the request to publish it in full. However only ten sentences have been added about this at the end of the article.

  1. The article states that Free Press Unlimited would have censored Radio Tamazuj. This is incorrect. We have not removed any articles from the website, and have never told the editors what they can and cannot write. We have not censored anyone, and will never do so. The mentioned articles can still be found online (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The former editor-in-chief of Radio Tamazuj has placed a these articles, which contai accusations towards other media and organizations, without applying the basic principle of an adversarial process. 
    We have received complaints about this and called him upon his journalistic professionality. We asked for an editorial review, an internal evaluation by an independent expert. 
    This external review has been held in the presence of all of the editors of Radio Tamazuj by journalist Michael Alexander (BBC), who was suggested by the editors themselves. He also concluded that the mentioned articles lacked journalistic quality. The editors agreed with this. 
  2. The article states that the website of Radio Tamazuj was 'locked'  for seven days. The website shows that during this period, articles were published on the website as usual. What did happen is that the former editor-in-chief felt that the discussion between us as responsible publisher and the editors was 'undermining critique'. He held the passwords to the all the social media accounts of Radio Tamazuj, also the Twitter account. He has denied his colleagues access to these accounts by changing passwords without announcing it. After this, he started sending out tweets on behalf of Radio Tamazuj. 
    Because the team feared that he would do the same with the website, we have taken over the passwords and other security measures of the website, changed them and immediately gave them back to the director of Radio Tamazuj. 
    We did not block the website. On the contrary: it was the former editor-in-chief, the prime source for this story, who has blocked accounts and did not give back all of these passwords to the people who had to work with them, until long after his employment ended. This is apparent from the e-mail traffic between Radio Tamazuj, Free Press Unlimited and the former editor-in-chief.
  3. The article states that Free Press Unlimited would only strive for the independence of Radio Tamazuj on paper. When the editors sent us their declaration of indepence in January of 2016, we agreed to it on the same day. However, in order for a radio station to become independent, it needs a solid financial base. This was not there at the time. The discussions about independence have always been held openly and transparently. During a workshop in July of this year we have discussed, among other things, by what date Radio Tamazuj will become independent. Free Press Unlimited suggested the 1st of January of 2018, but at the explicit request of the editors the date for independence is set at the 1st of January 2020.  
  4. The Correspondent claims that the editors would be 'aimless and demotivated'. This is also untrue. A new editor-in-chief has been appointed, and two of the editors were involved in this appointment. All the editors are very happy with this new editor-in chief. Quality stories about the war in South Sudan are still being published. Apparently Radio Tamazuj is so relevant, that the government of South Sudan has blocked the website of the radio station.

    The original article that was sent to us for response before publication, contained over 40 factual inaccuracies. Part of the text which contained these errors was left out of the article that was published on September 13th, 2017. Download the PDF with the 31 inaccuracies below.

    Errors in article The Correspondent