Contributor's Letters Opinion

Open Letter to President Salva Kiir on the Status of Press freedom in South Sudan

By Joseph Oduha,

South Sudan troubled President desperately scans through a friendly letter from the Egyptians' president to see his chances of joining the Arab League. Next to the right of Salva Kiir is the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry who brought the letter(Photo: file)
South Sudan troubled President desperately scans through a friendly letter from the Egyptians’ president to see his chances of joining the Arab League. Next to the right of Salva Kiir is the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry who brought the letter(Photo: file)

Nov 19, 2019(Nyamilepedia) — You’re Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Sudan General Salva Kiir Mayardit, allow to draw your attention on the above mentioned subject. 

It has been 7 years now, in which 11 journalists have been brutally killed in the line of duty in South Sudan between December 2012 and August 2018 respectively. No single killer of these journalists has been apprehended and brought to book. 

Several reports by various human rights groups accused the state security of being responsible for a disproportionate number of extrajudicial killings, intimidation of journalists and censorship of coverage of violent events. Most of these allegations based their evidence on the government reluctance to investigate and apprehend the killers of these journalists. 

Since then, the repression on media freedom in South Sudan is sharply increasing and has chilling effects on journalists. 

It is too evident that our work as journalists in South Sudan is now challenged by factors like withering up news sources, inaccessibility to news events, ghost towns with common harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest, detention, kidnapping and torture and killing of journalists. These all prevent us journalists from doing our jobs. 

Presently, the Editor-in-Chief of The Dawn, an English Daily newspaper is now serving the third week in detention at National Security Service (NSS) headquarters known as Blue House in Juba. Mr. Monychol was first arrested in October and released on bail to attend the last funeral rite of his father in-law but he was again rearrested the first week of November. 

His crime, according to the media report, he posted a comment on his Facebook, correcting the dress code of the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Awut Deng Acuil in one of her past state visit to Eritrea. 

This arrest contradicts article 24 of the transitional constitution of South Sudan which guarantees freedom of expression and of the press. 

You’re Excellency, Mr. President, we are at a critical time and the present restrictions on press freedom in the country did not only affect the people of South Sudan but also characterized South Sudan as under totalitarian rule.  

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) past investigations, South Sudan is still one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. 

The World Press Freedom Index also situates South Sudan at a dismal of 139 out of 180. 

South Sudan has been at war for five years. It is one of the most destructive wars in modern history and is perpetuated by the greed for power.

In December 2013 and July 2016, armed militias emerged from both ends of the political spectrum in the three regions of Upper Nile, Bahr El Gazal and Equatoria, some joining the government forces, others joining the SPLA-IO, the largest rebel group while others chose to fight on their own. 

In this context, the history of media in South Sudan should have run deep. 

On September 12, 2018, You’re Excellency Mr. President you signed a historic revitalized peace agreement with Riek Machar the leader of the SPLM/A-IO. 

Unfortunately, this agreement failed to underline the key role of press freedom in fostering a culture of peace.  Today, journalists become targets of enemies of peace, who see media work as to dissuade local people against their violent ideologies. 

In this post-peace agreement phase, I am appealing to you, Mr. President to do everything in your power to bring this impunity against members of the press to end and to improve the relationship between your government and media as well as to ensure security and protection for journalists and everyone in the country. 

The media can play a pivotal role to contribute towards de-escalation of violence and encourage peace in the country only if the restrictions on media freedom and freedom of speech are lifted.     

To build positive peace in the nation, local voices must be heard. The media is key in promotion of a sustainable peace in the society. 

Once again, I am appealing to you Mr. President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of all organized forces to pardon The Dawn Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Mr. Emmanuel Monychol and other human rights activists who are still serving prison terms for criticizing the government. 

Lastly, Your Excellency, we need justice for the 11 journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty in South Sudan. 

Below the list of Journalists killed in South Sudan  

11 July 2016 John Gatluak Manguet, The Radio Community Internews 

19 August 2015 Peter Julius Moi , freelance journalist. 

20 May 2015 Pow James Raeth, Radio Tamazuj

25 January 2015  Musa Mohammed South Sudan Radio 

25 January 2015 Boutros Martin South Sudan Television

25 January 2015 Dalia Marko Raja Radio Station

25 January 2015 Randa George Raja Radio Station

25 January 2015 Adam Juma   Raja Radio Station

5 December 2012 Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol- Sudan Tribune

4 June  2016 Isaac Vuni  Freelance

26 August  2018 Allen Christopher Freelance

The author Mr. Joseph Oduha is a South Sudanese journalist. He can be reach by abunabet@gmail.com 

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