US embassy calls for media freedom in S. Sudan

US embassy calls for media freedom in S. Sudan
US U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, David Renz calls for expanded media freedom in South Sudan. [Photo, US Embassy in South Sudan]

The US Embassy in South Sudan has called on the government to allow the media to operate freely.

Speaking at a belated World Press Freedom Day celebration in Juba on May 13, David Renz, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, emphasised that it was time for the country’s leaders to guarantee protection for individuals who express grievances through the media.

“The government, without a doubt, will deny that it censors the press and will protest to these standards. The facts, on the other hand, speak for themselves. These are hardly the characteristics of a country that values freedom of expression, assembly, and the press. This isn’t a country with a lot of public space.

Renz noted that South Sudan is facing critical decisions about its future, emphasising the importance of a free press in reporting the news and serving as a platform for open debate.

He said that the best way to reach a national consensus on South Sudan’s future is through open conversation.

“At this critical point in your history, I call on the Media Authority to redouble its efforts to ensure journalists can perform their responsibilities in a safe, protected environment,” he stated.

He said World Press Freedom Day is an occasion to assess the state of press freedom, protection of journalists, and citizens’ rights to unbiased, accurate information.

He stated: ‘‘It’s a day to recognise the courage of journalists and remember those who have been harassed and intimidated, detained, kidnapped, tortured, or killed for simply doing their jobs. Sadly, we’re reminded what a dangerous, yet noble, professional journalism is.’’

Grim stats

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that last year, set a new record for the number of journalists arrested and killed worldwide were 293 for those jailed and 28 murdered.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Article 24 of your Constitution proclaims, “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of expression.” All levels of government shall guarantee the freedom of the press and other media.’’

Mr. Renz called on all segments of society to rally behind the nation’s media organisations in their fight against censorship, intimidation, illegal arrests, and the extralegal suspension of independent radio stations.

However, the Executive Director of Media Authority, Elijah Kuai, urged the journalists to uphold professional codes of conduct in their reporting to avoid friction with law enforcers. He said the security sector was being streamlined to improve relations with security officers.

“The functions of law enforcement authorities are being streamlined to improve a favourable media regulatory environment, which is important for peace, good governance, and the safety of journalists.”