News / Africa

South Sudan Media Work in Climate of Fear, Rights Groups Say

A report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch says South Sudanese journalists are being harassed, intimidated and detained by government security agents.
A report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch says South Sudanese journalists are being harassed, intimidated and detained by government security agents.

Two leading human rights groups slammed South Sudanese authorities on Friday for abusing the rights of journalists and creating a climate of fear in the country at a time when it needs free speech and debate to end a deadly conflict.

"South Sudan’s authorities, especially the National Security Service (NSS) have harassed, intimidated, and arbitrarily detained journalists while the government has failed to pass key laws to protect freedom of expression,” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a report called "The Price of Silence."

Journalists “cannot report freely on the ongoing conflict and newspapers are unable to participate in open debate on how the country could move towards sustainable peace without fear of retribution by state security forces,” the report says.

Interviews with opposition chiefs banned

Journalists have been banned from interviewing opposition leaders or reporting on human rights violations by government forces. Those who violate those unwritten rules have been “harassed, intimidated, summoned for questioning by the NSS and told to leave the country,”  the report says.

Newspapers have been ordered to shut down altogether, or have had issues or entire print runs seized.

The report says the NSS is the biggest violator of journalists’ rights.

“Since 2011, this body has been operating without a legal mandate and, especially in Juba and other state capitals, has carried out unlawful arrests and detentions contributing to undermining freedom of expression,” the report says.

Draft legislation brought before the National Assembly in May would formalize the NSS’s status, but not in a way that would help media rights or free speech.

“The draft grants the NSS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without guaranteeing basic due process rights. It also provides broad powers to engage in communications surveillance, and does not require judicial oversight,” the report says.

Minister in the Office of the President Awan Gual said security agents who harass the media are acting on their own, not on orders from the government.

"The incidents that happened -- they happened not as policy of the country," he said.

Fearful atmosphere

The crackdown on the media has resulted in an “increasingly fearful atmosphere” among journalists “…at a time when South Sudan most needs independent voices to contribute to discussions about how to end the political crisis and internal armed conflict,” said Elizabeth Ashamu Deng, South Sudan researcher at Amnesty International.

“Abuses by the National Security Service… have especially contributed to a growing atmosphere of fear among journalists and human rights defenders,” she said.

Many journalists “have resorted to self-censorship, carefully crafting articles and statements to avoid antagonizing the government, opting out of public appearances or television and radio interviews,” while others are reporting less, the rights groups say.

Others have been targeted with violence, and more still have left the country, the report says, citing a lawyer in Juba who said, “If you stay, you pay the price of silence.”

“Right now journalists and commentators cannot do their work and report freely on the ongoing conflict without fear of retribution by state security forces,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“We’ve seen the NSS and other authorities erode freedom of expression since South Sudan’s independence through abusive practices: these should end now,” Bekele said.

Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this story from Washington D.C.


 

You May Like

Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Unlikely Before Monday

Tension builds over possible indictment of white police officer in shooting death of black teen More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current Russian-backed rebels’ fight in east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid