MEDIA OUTLETS HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO THEIR WORK
Free and fair media always aim to inform, educate and entertain the general public. The public has the constitutional rights to express their views when necessary. These views should however not border on incitements or creating public disorder. In a democratic system like South Sudan, it is only courts that are allowed to issue orders to stop any publication that may infringe on a person or persons’ rights. Those orders must be legal and legitimate and must be served to the expected publication by the official of the court(s) and the Media Authority only. Not otherwise like some organizations and institutions in this country would want the general public to believe. Lawyers should be in the forefront to teach and educate the masses on the right procedures to follow if such orders are to be valid in case of publications or statements. An institution or organization should not wake-up one morning write a notice, stamp and instruct media outlets on who to cover or what articles from which sources to be published or not. Juba Monitor is revisiting this issues because we have come across three cases, which are somehow seek to intimidate and infringe on the right to freedom of expression and information. The Red Army had their in-house differences and came out with an advert “instructing” media-outlets to stop covering a certain group. Similarly Tonj Coordinating Office and the South Sudan Bar Association did a similar move. We are not interested in their in-house differences but we cannot sit back and accept to be intimidated and threatened with prosecutions through illegal means if we do not adhere to their demands. It is important to note that the general public has a lot of respect for our brothers in the legal fraternity. It is very sad that the same legal practitioners who should be protecting the sanctity and integrity of the constitution are the same people mutilating it mercilessly through misinterpretations. An individual once visited our newsroom with an advert seeking publication. When we ran our eyes through the advert, we discovered a lot of breaches of the law and more so the fact that it bordered on court contempt. To us, the advert did not meet ethical standards of journalism practice. When we explained our position to the client, he immediately called his lawyer and explained to him our position regarding ‘contempt of court’. His lawyer admitted an oversight and apologized. These notices to media houses or outlets are illegal until authenticated and approved by concerned authorities. Jungle laws cannot be tolerated in the modern society. People should not try to invoke the names of higher authorities to intimidate or instill fear in others, media outlets included. In this time and age of hard earned democracy, the media should be left to play its role to make informed decisions regarding publications. That is why we handle community issues with a lot of care to ensure they meet professional ethical standards.