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

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid