National, News

We censor media to protect journalists- Makuei

By Mamer Abraham


Minister of Information and Government spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth, has dismissed a report that the government and the National Security Service censor media work.

But Makuei admitted the removal of articles from newspapers, stressing that it was a means of protecting the public from hate speech and also journalists from lawsuits.

“If the article is inciting hatred, then it ought to be removed. Instead of us allowing it to go to the public and then having people fight over it and cause insecurity, we would prefer to take it out,” he claimed.

“Otherwise, we don’t want to take that author to court. This is why we are removing them,” Makuei told the journalists after the Council of Ministers meeting yesterday.

He threatened that if it were preferable to take the journalists to court for careless reporting instead of just removing articles from the newspapers, the government would be ready to do it.

“This is a protective measure instead of waiting for something to happen, after which we will react. And if you want us to take people to court, we are ready to do that,” Makuei continued.

“Because we believe that removing the article and keeping quiet is better than taking that person to court.”

He accused the UN Human Rights Council of duplicating reports without making the necessary changes to acknowledge the government’s efforts, stressing that no journalist had ever been arrested after the case of Michael Christopher.

“Has any journalist ever been arrested since the case of Michael Christopher? Is there a journalist who was arrested? No journalist has ever been arrested. And this is a very clear indication that we are moving in the right direction,” he stated.

Call for freedom.

On Thursday, the chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Yasmin Sooka, criticized the government for censoring the media, stressing that freedom of expression was an asset for the 2024 general elections.

“As South Sudan considers the prospect of national elections in December 2024, its government must urgently cease unlawful media censorship, end intolerable restrictions on civic and political activities, and halt attacks on journalists and human rights defenders,” Sooka said in a statement seen by the No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Thursday.

“Independent media and a vibrant civil society represent critical voices in developing accountable governance and the democratic processes required to enable peace and ensure human rights,” she noted.

In its report, the Human Rights Commission accused the National Security Service (NSS) of making themselves gatekeepers for media houses to filter out information that exposes or criticizes the government.

The report added that independent online media outlets were subject to stiff cyber-attacks and blockages by the security organs.

The National Security Service Act 2014 allows the NSS to arrest or detain anyone without a warrant. Critics argue that giving national security much freedom deprives citizens of their rights and freedoms.

In December 2022, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny settled on scrapping the NSS’s power of arrest without a warrant.

The NSS Bill is now in parliament, awaiting its third and fourth final’ readings.

Parliament spokesperson John Agany said on Wednesday that the bill requires further review before it is passed.

“The national security bill is technical and a bill that deals with your life. We have to make sure that this law has been clearly scrutinized,” he told journalists.

Agany mentioned that some articles in the Bill contradict the role of national security.

“One of the questions was articles 54 and 55 granting the national security elements to arrest anybody in South Sudan,’’ he added.

After scrutiny by parliament, it will be passed and subsequently assented to by the president to become a law.

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