[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] The editor of a daily newspaper in South Sudan has condemned the continued repression of the media contrary to provisions of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. He has asked the authorities to allow the media do its work of informing the public without hindrance.
In a statement to the media, Aurelious Simon Chopee, the editor of the Nation Mirror Newspaper, explained that the newspaper suspended printing of its Friday 19th 2016 edition because of interference by state security agencies.
This happened because the newspaper had prepared for publication a story on Riek Machar, which the security agencies termed a “national security threat”.
“At about 11 p.m., Ganesh Printers informed the newspaper editor that the National Security Services personnel deployed at the printing press wanted the lead story article entitled “Dr. Machar Resurfaces in Congo” removed or else risk confiscation. Based on the information, the Nation Mirror decided to suspend printing right away to avoid losses of confiscation the following morning,” said the statement.
Chopee said this is the second time within this month that articles have been removed from the Nation Mirror’s Publication by security agents.
“This act of removing articles constitutes to censorship and repression on our work and media in South Sudan generally. It also undermines freedom of expression and media enshrined in the Transitional Constitutions of South Sudan,” he said.
“The Nation Mirror believes in objectivity, fairness, and all other principles of journalism. Its publications have been factual, fair and informative for the people of South Sudan to make right decisions. However, we are disappointed by continued impediment to the smooth facilitation to fulfill its mandate,” said the statement.
Incidents of repression of the media are not new in South Sudan. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in the past five years, eight journalists have been killed for doing their jobs. South Sudan is now ranked 140th in the World Press Freedom Index. Many journalists have also fled away from the country for their own safety. Opoka p'Arop Otto, former Managing editor of Juba Monitor fled the country after frequent arrests and beatings because of the work he was doing.
Journalists and activists blame President Salva Kiir for this state of affairs because of the bill that he passed in 2014, which gave the National Security Service (NSS) new powers. Despite widespread local and international criticism, it was signed into law, allowing the national security agency to arrest and detain journalists.
“The scope of the powers granted to the NSS in this bill flies in the face of international norms and South Sudan’s own constitution,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead the bill grants security officers wide powers without judicial oversight or clear limits on when they can use force.”
In July, CPJ demanded for the release of Michael Christopher, a journalist who was arrested in the capital, Juba, on July 23. It asked the government to take action to stop the harassment of the media immediately.
Christopher, the editor-in-chief of the independent Arabic-language daily al-Watan, was arrested by the National Security Service after his paper allegedly published an inaccurate report.