AMDISS wants law criminalising defamation abolished

AMDISS wants law criminalising defamation abolished
Ayaa Irene, the acting Executive Director of AMDISS. [Photo: Courtesy]

The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) is calling on the national assembly to amend the Media Authority Act that treats defamation as a criminal case.

This comes after the national parliament passed the National Security Act 2014 amendment Bill 2023 to its third reading, which seeks to remove the powers of national security to arrest without a warrant.

Speaking to The City Review yesterday, the acting Executive Director of AMDISS, Irene Ayaa, said defamation was not supposed to be treated as a criminal offence but as a civil case.

“We want defamation to be linked to civil offence where any case of defamation can be handled within the media authority.”

Ayaa said although there is a specialised committee in the media authority that deals with complaints, it still regards defamation as a criminal offence that she considers as not right.

“As it is now in the media authority law or in the media authority act, defamation is a criminal case. So when a journalist is accused of defamation, that journalist can be arrested and taken to court or can be jailed because it is criminal,” she lamented. Ayaa continued, “That is the area we want also the assembly to work on to amend that kind of articles that link defamation to the penal code.”

However, Ayaa commended the assembly on their effort to amend the National Security Service Act 2014; sections 54 and 55.

“As the media, we have faced this in the past where journalists are arrested without even taking their statements and they are detained.”

According to her, deleting such sections from the National Security Act would remove pressure on journalists and it will allow them to do their work well.

“AMDISS applauds the principal signatories of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan for listening to the outcry of the people to amend these particular two Articles 54 and 55 of the National Security Act, 2014 (Amended) 2023 for the benefit of the country and its people,” Ayaa said in a statement.

She believes that having good laws that enable the media and citizens to engage the authorities on issues of public interest can nurture trust-building among the public.

“AMDISS calls on the honourable members of parliament representing their respective political parties to continue deliberating and amending the provisions that infringe on the Bill of Rights and press freedom, freedom of speech, and association that are key for a prosperous and democratic state,” she stated.