The City Review newspaper lauded for independent journalism

The City Review newspaper has been hailed as one of the leading independent newspapers in the country. This is according to Reporters Without Borders—an independent institution that champions the rights of journalists and documents accounts of human rights abuses.

This comes as journalists all over the world yesterday commemorated World Press Freedom Day under the theme “Journalism under Digital Siege”. The theme focused on the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, and access to information and privacy.

While UNESCO and the Republic of Uruguay hosted the annual World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, various media organisations, journalists and organisations that support media freedom had parallel functions to mark the date, which acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.

Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay pointed the need for a new digital configuration that will protect both journalists and journalism.

“We all must do more to address the risks and seize the opportunities of the digital age. On this World Press Freedom Day, I invite Member States, technology companies, the media community, as well as the rest of civil society to come together to develop a new digital configuration – one that protects both journalism and journalists,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

South Sudan story

Back home, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that freedom of the press is still precarious and journalists work under constant threat and intimidation, and where censorship is ever-present.

According to the organization, ‘‘radio is the most popular media in South Sudan, with more than 40 radio stations operating in the country’s 10 states. The main ones – Miraya, Eye Radio, Catholic Radio Network face intimidation from the authorities and censorship.’’

“There are two state-owned television networks, the national South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation and the regional EBC, and six newspapers, four published in English and two in Arabic. Only two of the English-language newspapers – No. 1 Citizen and City Review – are free of government influence,” RSF reports.

According to the pressure group, most political leaders impose their agenda on the media.

“National television and radio suffer greatly from a lack of independence. They face threats and sanctions if their programs don’t adhere to the government line. However, since the Media Authority of South Sudan, the country’s regulatory agency, was established in 2017, media shut-downs are less frequent. It is common for agents of the National Security Service (NSS) to intervene directly in newsrooms or printing plants to censor specific content. Several articles from the Al-Mouqif newspaper were thus deleted in 2019,” reads the report published on their website as part of World Press Freedom Day activities.

In 2013 and 2014, the president promulgated a law on media power, one on radio broadcasting and one on the right of access to information, which makes up the legal framework for press freedom and access to information. But these laws do not prevent repeated infringements of press freedom, according to RSF

“Media ownership is highly concentrated, making some media nationally dominant. State-owned media, and those supported by political leaders, tend to receive more advertising than their private counterparts. Taxes, as well the cost of officially registering a news organization, are very high. This results in a lack of financial resources, creating an environment for corruption. In recent years, several media outlets have closed due to economic constraints, “reads a statement from their website

The civil war that broke out in December 2013 between supporters of the president and those of the vice president, has revived ethnic conflicts that affect journalists’ work. Reporters belonging to one ethnic group cannot cover events in parts of the country where another ethnic group dominates. Women journalists have been denied authorisation to conduct interviews and cover events.

South Sudan rank improves

Nonetheless, according to RSF, South Sudan’s score improved in 2022, moving from position 139 in 2021 to 128 this year. While the RSF did not make an account for the increased friendliness to the media, there have been fewer cases of hostility to the media in 2022.

World abuses in figures

Killed since January 1 2022

-24 journalists

-1 media worker

Currently in Prison

461 journalists

19 media workers

480 in prison