By David Mono Danga
The Association of Media Women in South Sudan (AMWISS) with support from the Canadian Embassy and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), in collaboration with the Media Authority organized a Media Landscape Forum for practicing journalists in the country.
The meeting was held at Juba Grand Hotel on Tuesday.
The Forum was organized under the theme “Towards a Better Understanding of the Media Laws,” emphasized on the roles of South Sudan’s media advocacy and development organizations to support freedom of expression. It also fought to encourage unity among all media practitioners in the country.
All stakeholders present raised serious issues regarding press freedom and the spread of hate speech. Media houses especially the print raised concerns over censorship of the press.
Winnie – Editor In Chief-The Voice Newspaper speaking during the meeting.
The Chief Editors of Juba Monitor and The Voice Newspapers raised concerns over the deployment of security personnel at the printing press to remove articles critical of the government and its officials.
“State agents are in the habit of deleting some lines from our stories they think are putting the government in bad light before we publish,” said Winnie Editor In Chief of The Voice Newspaper.
“This kind of censorship is unfair,” she added.
Anna Namiriano, The Editor in Chief of Juba Monitor lamented the intimidation by national security forces, who have in some instances pulled out stories without consulting the editors.
She protested that “Sometimes the page comes out blank after security forces go to the printing press to review the stories before it goes out to print.”
“The authorities sometimes use hate speech. When we listen to (their speeches) on radio stations, we can tell hate speech. Sometimes they are carried away by emotions and speak rudely and harshly to the audience,” Anna reiterated.
The Chairman of the Editors Forum in South Sudan and Managing Director of Eye Radio Juba said media practitioners are working under constant threats.
“The Media in South Sudan is operating in a state of fear,” Kong Paul.
Defy Hate Now’s South Sudan Team Leader, Marina Modi spoke about the line between freedom of expression and hate speech in conflict and post conflict context
Meanwhile Defy Hate Now’s South Sudan Team Leader, Marina Modi said “Freedom of expression gives you the right to say things in an acceptable manner. But hate speech creates violence. Unfortunately, some media houses in South Sudan are guilty of it”.
The CEO Media Council of Kenya David Omwoyo blamed politicians for the increased cases of hate speech saying if the political.
“Some politicians often speak vulgar language scaring journalists. Therefore they (journalists end up censoring themselves),” Omwoyo said.
He advised media to avoid glorifying the dirt that politicians spewed on media. Omwoyo also called on self-censorship amongst media stations in the country citing that this will help regulate the incitement and violence among the country.
The Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan, Allan Hamson said the stakeholders should work together to combat hate speech in the country.
“We must work together to combat hate speech in South Sudan, while preserving media freedoms to cover issues of legitimate public interest.”
“We will continue to work with the media authority to ensure the press is protected to report on right issues,” Amb Hamson said.
However, the Head of Communication Development Department, University of Juba Chaplain Kara Yokuju said a free press should not intentionally or knowingly publish false information.
Last year was the most dangerous year ever for journalists. Eighteen journalists were killed around the world in 2017, a record number were imprisoned and threats against the press seemingly have become common, even in the West.
Data published by press freedom organizations indicates that the threats faced by journalists worldwide are increasing. Reporters Without Borders, an organization that works with local journalists to monitor the treatment of the press by authorities in 130 countries, already has recorded the deaths of two journalists in January and the imprisonment of 189 others.
The UK Ambassador Alison Blackburne and the Canadian Ambassador Allan Hamson during a Media Stakeholders Forum at the Juba Grand Hotel. The meeting sought to address the issues of media law in the country. (Photo: Courtesy of Journalists for Human Rights)