Could a special court for journalists improve the media industry?
Supreme Court Judge James Alala has challenged the government to create a specialized court to handle cases leveled against media practitioners.
The judge reasoned that having a specialized journalists court would help in solving disputes in the industry given the nature of the practice of journalism in the country. The idea sounds brilliant for the government to have a second thought about.
It also echoes in the ears of media partners given that it would be the first of its kind in the world to have a special court for journalism related offense.
According to Reporters without Borders, Press freedom index of South Sudan increased from 41.25 score in 2011 to 48.16 score in 2017 growing at an average annual rate of 3.03 %. Even if the country made some progress in improving the media setting of recent, the Supreme Court judge’s idea is logical given the current media environment.
Since independence, six journalists killed in line of their duty in the country according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating the deaths of other four journalists to determine if their journalism was the reason they were targeted. Some journalists were deported and others denied entry to the country.
In a bit to get rid of “subversive” contents, many media outlets were blocked, suspended, or shut down.
The new regulator would argue that it has improved the work of the media sector in the country but if the status quo of solving disputes exists, it would look like the ceremonial work rather than improving the works of journalists on the ground.
The work of the specialized court, if well-coordinated with that of the Media Authority would prevent cases of denial harassment and arbitrary detention since any offense involving a journalists or media house would be directed to the specialized court.
Journalist would not be free from the court though; there are numerous offences they commit consciously and unconsciously. The roles of the court would be to deter them from such conscious and unconscious offences which usually raise the eye brows of the authority.
Authorities would also take a backseat in the court process which would lead to justice for both the plaintiff.
With free press, Journalists are well positioned to play a crucial role in bolstering accountability in South Sudan. When press freedom is impeded existing local capacities to sustain peace and development are as well hindered.