South Sudan

Free press vital for peace building, says UNMISS human rights official

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21 April 2014 - Efforts to restore peace through a free press and freedom of expression were of utmost importance for the future of South Sudan, UNMISS Senior Human Rights Officer Michael Ngabirano said in Juba today.

Mr. Ngabirano was speaking at the opening of a four-day media training workshop for journalists, where he represented the mission’s Human Rights Division Director, Ibrahim Wani.

The training was organized by the division in collaboration with the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS), the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), Internews and the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization as part of activities to mark World Press Freedom Day, which is observed on 3 May annually.

“South Sudanese independence opened up opportunity for a more democratic landscape for media ownership and practice, and resulted in a number of changes to the media situation in the country,” said Mr. Ngabirano.

He listed some achievements, including the country’s commitment in 2013 to become a pilot country for the UN Plan of Action for Safety of Journalists and promulgation of the Media Acts in October 2014.

“We look forward to the swift implementation of the laws in order to ensure a free, independent and competitive media environment,” he said. “Promoting an enabling environment for freedom of expression and media through swift implementation of the Media Acts can help drive the process of peace building and reconciliation in South Sudan.”

Despite the limited progress, Mr. Ngabirano also noted that the media was still controlled and restricted by surveillance, arbitrary arrest, detention of journalists and other sanctions imposed mainly by security and law enforcement authorities.

“A free press ensures a culture of public accountability, human rights, rule of law and democracy,” he said. “The Media Acts will provide the critical legal and regulatory framework for developing a functioning and professionally orientated media system, a central factor for any peace-building, social reconstruction and national reconciliation processes.”

Calling for responsibility, good judgment and professionalism from media professionals, Mr. Ngabirano noted that it was also vital to recognize the need for adopting and implementing a national media policy strategy.

Alfred Taban, Chairperson of AMDISS, also urged the government to speed up the implementation of the media laws.

“I am warning you (media) that even with this training, it will not solve all your problems because without these laws you cannot function properly in your work,” he said.