Special Report Government urged to create a special court for journalists
Supreme Court Judge James Alala speaks at the media Landscape Forum at Juba Grand Hotel (Photo : Courtesy of Journalists for Human Rights)
By David Mono Danga
Supreme Court Judge James Alala has challenged the government to create a specialized court that will handle the cases leveled against media practitioners.
Speaking during a media stakeholders meeting at Juba Grand Hotel on Tuesday Justice Alala said the court will be important in protecting both media houses and journalists in the country.
He pointed out that the court should be run by a professional judge who understood the media landscape and would not fear either the journalists or the government.
“The judge appointed to head the court should be brave enough to tell the government or the journalists if wrong. As per the role of the judiciary it should not favor anyone,” Justice Alala added.
Alala said having a judge who was aware of the dynamics in the media industry and had knowledge of the nature of the practice of journalism will help in solving disputes in the industry.
“The Judges should be independent without influence from institutions or fellow colleagues. If they do they should be removed from office,” he added.
If established, the court will be the first of its kind in the globe. It could also foresee the cases of journalists handled by professions which would also promote credibility and fairness.
Justice Alala challenged media stakeholders to come up with an academy that will build the capacity of journalists in the country to promote credible and balanced stories.
Journalist for Human Rights (JHR) Executive Director Rachel Pulfer challenged the Media Authority to advocate for journalists who are summoned by security forces.
“Media Authority in SS exists to regulate the media. That means developing strategies to work with the media, not to shut it down. It also means advocating that security forces leave matters of the media to the media authority,” said Pulfer in a speech read on her behalf by JHR South Sudan Team Leader Laura Bain.
According to the Managing Director of Media Authority Elijah Alier, there was need for media to discourage hate speech and tribal bias to advance a political agenda.
“Let us not generalize media issues with politics. Media should be independent and not attached to any political party,” he added.
The undersecretary for Ministry of Information Alier Mayen retaliated the government commitment to protect the independence of the media and ensure journalists’ rights are upheld.
He added that the country was better in media freedom in the region, citing that as a country they have moved faster than most of the countries in the region when it comes to the enactment of the law.
“There was a lot of fight between the government, the media and the security operators five years ago. We used to say we are a new nation and we are learning. Five years later, we have moved and developed. We are not singing the same song,” he added.
The Head of Communication Development Department, University of Juba said there was conflict of interest with the increasing number of bloggers.
“Ungovernable bloggers and citizen journalists are contributing useful information to society. This is challenging in the context of South Sudan on how to handle them,” Chaplain Kara Yokoju.
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.
“Sometimes the page comes out blank after security forces go to the printing press to review the stories before it goes out to print,” she added.
She pointed out the importance of ensuring that the media did not advance hate speech including in their editorial or opinion pieces.
Media Council of Kenya CEO advised media to avoid glorifying the dirt that politicians spewed on media. He called on self-censorship amongst media stations in the country citing that this will help regulate the incitement and violence among the country.
He blamed politicians for the increased cases of hate speech
“If we don’t fix our politics we will keep on blaming the media. Fix the politics first,” he quipped.
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)
Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan Allan Hamson emphasized the need for dialogue on matters touching on the media industry. The meeting, he pointed out, was important in opening up discussions regarding topical issues at play in the media industry.
“Today’s meeting will help media institutions to discuss serious issues such as freedom of speech and tackling Hate speech,” he added.
The South Sudan Media Landscape Forum Association of Media Women in South Sudan with support from the Canadian Embassy and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), in collaboration with the Media Authority.
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.