Opinion: The arrest of S. Sudanese journalist in Torit is unjustified
By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi
January 14th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – Last week, Ijjo Bosco, a journalist working for a state-owned radio station in Torit (97.5 FM) was arrested and continues to be under detention. According to initial media reports, the journalist was arrested, after airing a story about the United States sanctions on First Vice President Taban Deng Gai for his alleged role in serious human rights abuse.
“The authorities were monitoring the radio, so upon hearing news about sanctions against Taban Deng, the information minister went and stopped the news,” Radio Tamazuj quoted a source as saying. “National Security officers came and arrested the journalist asking him to give evidence of the story that circulated on the internet”.
An official from the state confirmed that the journalist was arrested and transferred to the National Security custody in Torit.
However, the story took a twist on Monday after Eye Radio reported that the State authorities claim that the journalist is detained for reportedly failing to report on the assembling of forces in Magwi County. According to Torit State Minister of Information Margaret Idwa, Bosco was assigned to cover the story but failed to broadcast it, hence she considers the action by the journalist as insubordination, Eye Radio reported. “Our problem is why our local news was not announced? It is not the first time, he has been doing that many times and he had been warned many times,” the minister was quoted as saying. “Why is this fellow not announcing the real things?”
The Arrest and Detention are both unjustified
For starters, there is nothing called offence of “insubordination” against a journalist in line of his/her duty that warrants an arrest or detention, be it under South Sudan Media Laws or in any democratic Country the world. Furthermore, neither the State authorities nor the National Security Service have any jurisdiction over all that have been reported or officially claimed against the journalist.
The Media Laws of South Sudan are clear on those matters. Firstly, Section 21(6) of the Media Authority Act provides that the Press and Broadcasts Complaints Council shall: (g) have initial jurisdiction over all complaints against the media and journalists and to resolve such complaints through mediation, conciliation or arbitration as it may deem appropriate. The law exists and it further provides for the formation of the Press and Broadcasts Complaints Council by the Board of Directors of the Media Authority in consultation with the Managing Director of the Media Authority (See Section 21(5) of the Media Authority Act). The Press and Broadcasts Complaints Council has not been formed up-to date. However, this does not give the State authorities or the National Security Service any jurisdiction to handle the issues mentioned regarding journalist Bosco.
Secondly, despite the Radio the detained journalist works for is owned by the state government (Torit) and currently does not fall under the Public Broadcasters established through the Broadcasting Corporation Act, 2013 that are required by Section 7(3) (a) of the same Act to provide a service that is, among others, independent from political or economic control by the government and reflects editorial integrity, that does not give the authorities the right to arrest or detain the journalist. The matters are administrative and should be resolved as such. Journalist Ijjo Bosco should be released. Based on all that have been mentioned against him, the arrest and continues detention are both unjustified!
Roger Alfred Yoron Modi is a South Sudanese journalist and the author of a new book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan, published by Virtue Book Publishers Kenya and available in Juba, Nairobi and on Amazon. He’s a former Editor-in-Chief of Radio Bakhita and Managing Editor of Juba Monitor Newspaper. He can be reached via his email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter handle @RogerYoronModi
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