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South Sudan marks World Press Freedom Day amidst crackdown

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South Sudan journalists and international delegates in a group picture marking the World Press Freedom Day at the Juba Grand Hotel on May 3, 2017. JOSEPH ODUHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By JOSEPH ODUHA

Posted  Wednesday, May 3   2017 at  11:43

South Sudan Wednesday celebrated the World Press Freedom Day despite the increasing harassment and killing of journalists.

The celebrations were held at the Juba Grand Hotel in the capital.

The Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) says the safety of journalists in the war-torn country was of serious concern.

“Journalists are not safe because the country is not safe. There is intimidation, there is harassment and there are arbitrary arrests of journalists,” UJOSS Secretary-General Edward Ladu Terso, lamented.

Mr Terso revealed that about 11 journalists have so far lost their lives in relation to their profession.

“This is serious. This means that freedom of expression is not understood. Freedom of the press is not understood,” he added.

Fundamental rights

Mr Terso challenged the Juba administration to safeguard the lives of the media workers and ensure a safe environment for press freedom.

The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) development officer, Ms Irene Aya, called on the authorities to guarantee freedom of expression.

“The situation is very fragile and we need our government to respect and provide free and safe environment for our journalists,” she noted.

AMDISS deputy chairperson Mary Ajith said press freedom and freedom of expression were fundamental rights of all South Sudanese as enshrined in the Transitional Constitution.

She reiterated the calls for the released of all jailed journalists and the reopening of media houses shut down by the authorities over critical reporting.

Ms Ajith also slammed the deployment of state agents at printing presses to censor stories perceived to be against the interest of the government.

“From January to April, at least 20 critical stories were removed by the National Security deployed to printing presses,” she said.

Unesco says press freedom environment in South Sudan required dialogue between the media, different state actors and other stakeholders.

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