National, News

Press freedom in question as election looms

By William Madouk


The safety of journalists and press freedom is in question as the anticipated 2024 general elections approach.

On Monday, security personnel confiscated the accreditation of Abud Samuel, a cameraman, and Mr. Oyet Patrick, a CGTN correspondent who is also the chairperson of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) while filming a piece-to-camera (PTC) along the Airport Road.

A piece-to-camera (PTC) is a standard protocol practice for television reporters.

Mr. Patrick, in a statement he posted on Monday evening, said: “Today, me and my cameraman had “not a very pleasant encounter with some security personnel.”

“In the end, our valid accreditation documents from the Media Authority were confiscated, and we are told to report to the “office” tomorrow. All these are for filming a piece for the camera along the street in Juba,” he added.

The mistreatment of head of Union of Journalists, who is also a member of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee raises questions on the fate of the press in a country, heading to an election, where the media plays a crucial role.

In a statement seen by No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper yesterday, UJOSS expressed shock by the ill-fated confiscation of its president’s accreditation card while performing his duties.

According to UJOSS Secretary General, Majak Kuany, the accreditation documents were successfully recovered but the act still raises alarm over journalists’ safety as general elections near.

“We, as a union, saw this incident as a violation of media freedom as stipulated in the media laws and the transitional constitution of South Sudan 2011 as amended,” said Kuany.

“As the country is anticipating the first-ever general election, it is important for the relevant security sector to comprehend the work of journalists and media,” he added.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Mr. Edmund Yakani, was disappointed and said the act is undermining the laws.

“I’m so disappointed and disturbed to see that the state agency that is supposed to control the practice of the law has confiscated an official-issued ID card of a government entity,” said Yakani.

“Secondly, this tells you very clearly that there is no orientation within the government institutions to understand the application of the laws that are in the country,” he added.

According to him, journalists would face a lot of challenges during polls if orientation was not given to relevant security sectors.

“Of course, these incidents have exposed the risks that are ahead of journalists’ engagement on civic issues,” he noted.

Yakani highlighted that scribes would find it challenging to do their jobs in informing the public, holding leaders accountable, and doing balance and checking as the constitution provides.

Similarly, the Executive Director of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), Irene Ayaa, appealed to security to leave matters related to media to be handled by the national media regulatory body, the “Media Authority.”

“The media authority (MA) is the right body mandated by the law to handle media-related issues,” Ayaa stressed.

“If anybody has any issue with journalists or media houses, they should go and complain to the media authority. MA has the mandate to summon both journalists and anybody who has problems with the media,” she added.

Mrs. Ayaa waved a red flag over the safety of journalists during the forthcoming 2024 elections, adding that if the matter remains unresolved, then the fate of journalists would be at high risk.

“We fear that if things start happening like this, then during the time of the election, it will be tough,” she lamented.

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