A commentary on the freedom of expression and access to information: The South Sudan media context

By: Sapana Agyuli Abuyi- Director General for Information and Media Compliance,
Republic of South Sudan Media Authority

Pursuant to the provision in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011, Article 24, Sub-article 1, reads that; “Every citizen shall have the right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to public order, safety or morals as prescribed by law.”

This means that freedom of expression and the media is not obsolete, but must be without prejudice to public order, safety or morals as prescribed by law and shall not extend to the following:

• Spread of anti-government propaganda,
• incitement to violence,
• spreading of hate speech against certain communities, groups, tribes and or clans,
• incitement of communities to carry out revenge-killings,
• raids,
• Fraudulent statements
• promoting discrimination on the basis of tribes,
• ethnic origins,
• sex,
• marital status,
• health status,
• disability, and
• religion etc.

Hence, all media entities should ensure that they operate within the context of the law. Journalists should adhere to the code of conduct in practicing journalism as a profession.

Any information that threatens the security of the nation, fraudulent, misleading and fake information aimed at tarnishing the image of the country is prohibited.

In addition to the provisions in the Security Act, Articles 159 and 160 of the constitution mandated the National Security Service to gather information, analyse them and advice the relevant authorities accordingly. (The National Security Service is charged with the responsibility of the internal and external security of South Sudan and the security of its people.)

Hence, any appropriate intervention by the security to arrest, censor or remove an article from print is their mandate within the requirements of the law, not arbitrary curtailing of the freedom of expression unless it is proved to be unlawfully done.

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This commentary by our guest blogger- Sapana Abuyi- was inspired from a discussion on the situation of media in South Sudan under the theme of Safety and Censorship. To get a glimpse of the panelist’s discussion check out this link: https://www.facebook.com/695936427278392/videos/715055305366504/ (especially from 7:13 -14:29).

This panel discussion titled: Safety and Censorship of media in East Africa was organized by JHR –South Sudan in Nairobi, Kenya. Sapana Abuyi was one of the discussants from the plenary floor. A representative from Roshani Consultancy Services was the moderator of the session.

If you have any comment on this blog or want us to know more on the state of freedom of expression from the point of view of the media in your country, please feel free to make your contributions below.

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