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MPs regret aggression against journalists

Parliamentarians, media managers and practitioners, civil society

By Yiep Joseph                       

Members of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly(R-TGoNU)yesterday regretted aggressions committed against journalists while covering parliament, saying it was ‘unwanted’.

In February, 8 journalists from media outlets were briefly detained by the National Security Service personnel while covering a press conference organized by some MPs at the parliament premises.

John Agany, the Chairperson of the Specialized Committee for Information in the August House, in his address during a one-day media advocacy workshop on Thursday, offered an apology to members of the media fraternity on behalf of the parliamentarians and the transitional government for all aggressions that have been committed against journalists.

“In the name of the government and especially in the name of the national legislative Assembly where I came from, we regret any situation which occurred and it is unwanted,” Agany said.

“If there are occasions whereby media is not allowed to exercise their freedom of expression then we are sorry for that.If there is life lost because of maybe mishandling some issues, we are sorry for that,” he expressed.

“For that matter, if there are occasions whereby the media is not offered a necessary facility to do their work it is very unfortunate and we regret it” he reiterated 

He reaffirmed that the constitution of the country emphasized freedom of expression

“Our constitution which is the sovereign law of the country talks of freedom of expression and freedom of human rights, if our constitution says that human beings must be free, who are we to divert it?” he said.

Agany also slammed some journalists for being unprofessional while conducting their duties.

“But let us also see the other side of the coin, there are journalists who are not professionals, some of them are primary leavers that are not trained, in the morning they intrude into your house and when you tell them that you can’t do it this way, you do it according to the law, they will say that you are harassing them” he said.

He called on the parliamentarians, media, and civil society to cooperate in all situations in order to avoid misunderstandings. 

Tom Carter from British Embassy, called on stakeholders to respect and facilitate the work of journalists saying it was necessary and crucial for peacebuilding and development.

“We need to interact as stakeholders and deliberate on the necessary areas where we can cooperate in regards to media freedom,” Tom said.

Samuel Lotti, Deputy Chairperson of the Specialized Committee on Security and Public said that the media has many laws and characters that do not appreciate the work of the media 

“The media today is not what we expect because of so many laws and many characters who are not appreciating what media do,” Lotti said.

He revealed that the parliament is willing to review laws jointly with other stakeholders or institutions being media or civil society in order to make each and everyone comfortable with the laws.

He appreciated ADMISS’s commitment in ensuring professional journalism in the country citing that the workshop is meant to strengthen cooperation between the stakeholders.

Michael Duku, Executive Director of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan(AMDISS) stressed that the forum would be used to address challenges affecting the work of media in the country.

“There are still some gaps that need to be fixed, this include but is not limited to harmonization to some of the provision in the final court and the security law that contradicts the interpretation … we have seen articles being removed in newspapers, we have seen media houses being shut down by some authorities but if we can ask ourselves what does the law say when it comes to dealing with such issues,” Duku said.

He added that the workshop was an opportunity for the parliamentarians, media, and other stakeholders to make sure that the above issues are handled.  

All these discussions popped up during a one-day media Advocacy workshop organized by AMDISS with support from British Embassy. The event brought together the parliamentarians, civil society, media managers, and practitioners with an aim to enhance a deep understanding of South Sudan Media Laws

Last month, it was reported in most of the local media outlets that at least eight journalists were briefly detained by the national security service while covering a press conference at the parliament.

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