Journalists want press freedom in the South Sudan talks

Sunday July 8 2018

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOSEPH ODUHA
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South Sudan journalists want media freedom included in the country's peace negotiations.

The journalists are of the opinion that media freedom in the mediation would ensure a conducive environment for practitioners during and after the transitional period.

“It is important that press freedom is included in the talks for issues of accountability and transparency. Inclusivity of voices is vital," said Mr Kizito Oketa Modes, a South Sudanese media scholar.

"Voices that are not heard shall be heard, especially those of the minority groups."

“I think a press clause is important in this agreement, because whatever positions our leaders are apportioning to themselves will need some public input," said Mr Emmanuel Monchol, the Editor-In-Chief of The Dawn daily.

Self-censorship

"The media has to have a place as it is already paralysed by fear and self-censorship,” he added.

A journalist and human rights advocate, Mr Peter Gai Manyuon, also echoed similar sentiments.

He said the journalists operating in South Sudan faced numerous challenges that needed to be addressed in the peace talks.

“If media freedom is not mentioned in the agreement to be signed, the journalists will remain exposed to threats, harassment and killings because there will be no law protecting them.

Juba, Mr Manyuon pointed out, ignores the media law by imposing censorship, adding that the only chance to save journalists in the war-torn state was the inclusion of media freedom in the peace agreement.

Rights violations

Former Editor in-Chief of the Daily Vision Eunice Malaths noted the media played a profound role, in not only delivering the vision, objectives and news provided by the government to the constituents they serve, but also offered a direct form of communication between the people and government.

South Sudan journalists are often the target of government officials, especially when highlighting human rights violations and abuse of power.

Dozens of the journalists have been killed in line of duty while several others have fled into exile fearing for their lives.

Several media outlets have also been shut down by the government for critical coverage of the country’s affairs.

Public figures, including President Salva Kiir, often issue public threats against critical reporters.

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