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S. Sudan Official Says Broadcasting Interviews with Rebels 'An Offense'

South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei has warned reporters not to broadcast or publish interviews with rebel leaders inside South Sudan, saying it would constitute "subversive activity" and put the journalist on the wrong side of the law.

"When you go and interview a rebel who ran away from here and you come and play that interview on government territory, and you know that man is not friendly -- this is not the meaning of journalism," he told VOA in a telephone interview conducted from Washington.

"You interview him outside and publish it, whatever you do, outside, but when you come and disseminate this poisonous information inside South Sudan, it is an offense," said Makuei, a lawyer by profession.

Asked which section of South Sudan's penal code made interviews with rebels an offense, Makuei said, "It is not my duty to tell which law -- go and look for it."
If you step on the toes of others, you are in violation of the law. The toes of others here include the state. The state is a person.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei

A South Sudanese legal expert told VOA that South Sudan's penal code "does not bar journalists from broadcasting interviews with rebels."

"Everyone in South Sudan has the right to attain any interview," said the expert, who asked not to be named for reasons of personal safety.

The expert, who spoke to VOA from an undisclosed country of exile, added that, unless the country's constitution has been amended recently, it also guarantees South Sudanese the "right to communicate freely."

Makuei said the South Sudanese media "is free, according to the law."

"If you step on the toes of others, you are in violation of the law," the minister said.

"The toes of others here include the state. The state is a person," he said.

To listen to the interview with Makuei, click on the link below.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon

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