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Journalists should read the Laws of S. Sudan

By: Khamis Cosmas Lokudu

Freedom of expression is not absolutely free even in the developed Countries.

Speaking in a public forum systematized by Association of Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) conjointly with the School of Journalism, Media and Communication studies at the University of Juba,  Justice James Alala  put it decorously that freedom of Expression is definite in the Country citing Article 24 of  South Sudan Transitional Constitution 2011 as it reads, Every Citizen shall have the right to freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to public, Safety or morals as prescribed by law.

Alala advised the journalists, students of Mass Communication and law to thoroughly read the existing laws of South Sudan because it’s the same constitution that limits the freedom of expression once misused in terms of insulting the privacy of others.

However, the Court is not mandated to look for cases but the public has the right to report cases to court because it’s only the Court that is mandated to interpret the laws, Justice James told the audience yesterday in the course of public forum on liberty of expression at the University of Juba.

On his fragment, Nicodemus Ajak Commissioner of Access to Information commission elucidated that, Every citizen has the right of access to information in all forms held by any public or private body but subject to the provisions of the Act, additionally, the Act provides for the right of access to information as fundamental to the fulfillment of human rights and is essential in fighting corruption. Elaborately, the same act provides that any person has a right enforceable in court to obtain access to public, private institution, agency records, except to the extent that such records or portions of them are protectable from public disclosure by one of exemptions and exceptions.  

Every person is entitled to make a request for information in accordance with the provisions of the act however; the individual making the demand must be informed whether or not the public body where the information is being requested to hold that information. Whichever person making a wish for information from private body holding information necessary for the exercise of the relevant provisions of chapter 2 and 4 is entitled to have the information availed to him or her unless such information is exempted as prescribed in the Act,  Ajak stressed.

 In practical terms according to Ajak’s presentation, the governance is undoubtedly strengthened by the existence of a right to information.  Meaningful, substantive democracy is founded on the notion of an informed public that is able to participate thoughtfully in its own governance. Having access to information is a key mechanism for ensuring transparency and is a proven anti-corruption tool.

In this context he added, the right to information has proven to be an effective antidote to corruption, equipping parliamentarians, anti-corruption bodies and the public with a tool to break down the walls of secrecy.

The presentation highlighted the function of Access to Information Commission as follows, making recommendations for reform of both the general nature or directed to specific institutions, cooperate with or undertake training of public officials on the right of access to information for the effective implementation of the Act, refer cases which reasonably disclose evidence of criminal offences under this Act to the appropriate authorities , publicize the requirements of this Act and the rights of individuals under it,  reports to the National Legislative Assembly an annual report on the compliance of public bodies with their obligations under this Act, the activities of his office, and audited accounts of that financial year.

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