Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a report on the state of freedom of information in South Sudan, which will celebrate the first anniversary of its independence in six days’ time, on 9 July.
The product of a visit to the South Sudanese capital of Juba from 9 to 15 May, it says that the divorce with Khartoum is not entirely consummated and that independence has brought no significant improvement in media freedom. It looks at the media war being waged by the two Sudans and highlights the impact of the ubiquitous, heavy-handed security forces. It also highlights a growing tendency of journalists to censor themselves, and stresses the need for laws regulating the media.
Ranked 111th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, South Sudan is currently at a crossroads, the report argues.
“South Sudan is not currently prey to concerted and systematic harassment of its media. But there has been a disturbing accumulation of incidents and isolated acts of repression or intimidation that end up undermining the climate in which journalists and media operate,” Reporters Without Borders said.
In its conclusions, the report urges the authorities to severely punish anyone violating freedom of information and to stop using nationalistic arguments to pressure the media. It urges the military and security apparatus to put a stop to acts of brutality towards journalists. And it urges the National Legislative Assembly to quickly adopt the three media laws that were submitted by the government.
Reporters Without Borders also encourages the international community to condition aid to South Sudan on respect for fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of information, and encourages NGOs to support the development of South Sudan’s media and training of journalists. And finally, it calls on South Sudan’s journalists to adhere to professional ethics and resist pressure to censor themselves.report_rwb_south_sudan