As the world celebrates the International Day for Universal Access to Information, journalists in South Sudan have said restriction to access to information by some government and private institutions is obstructing their work.
According to the 2012 access to information bill, every citizen shall have the right to freedom of information, including the right to access information and records held by public or private bodies.
This includes electronic records in the possession of any level of government in South Sudan or any organ or agency.
The South Sudan constitution also states 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.
But some journalists, who spoke to Eye Radio, say these provisions have been violated by some government and private institutions.
[Winnie Cirino- VOA]: “Access to information have been easy, sometime you go to look for a certain information and people intention refused to give you, we have also seen this in government institution where by you go to get a certain information and they are hesitant to give the information and they will tell you this information is not for the public and they are just trying to hold it.”
[Michael Christopher – Al-Watan newspaper]: “We are face with a lot of challenges as journalist in accessing information, for a journalist to get any information he or she will be told write a letter to the concern office, when you summit the letter to request for interview they will say they need sample question and this delay makes the news stale, news doesn’t need to be delayed. What really pains us is when you need information from a specific institution and you call a minister he will say he is busy while the urgency of the interview is paramount for instance accidents or political development in the country.”
[Sheila Poni – Freelance journalist]: “The access to information in South Sudan is not easy, it is difficult, we don’t get the information easily, and the challenges we go through is that when you want to get information from a concern ministry is that sometime you don’t get it, sometime you make an interview to arrange for an exclusive interview and most of the sources have the tendency of dogging to give the information to journalist. For instance when you call someone he or she will tell you I am in a meeting and call me in two hours and after calling they will still tell you they are in a meeting, they keep on dogging till late and you end up missing the information you need.”
The journalists went on to call on the governments to raise more awareness about access to informal law in the public and private institutions as well as the community in general.
[Michael Christopher – Al-Watan newspaper]: “I am requesting our government on the day to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information, they should allow access to information and there should be understanding between journalists and leaders. I am also requesting that every office should have a press secretary of public relation who is a journalist instead of employing those who know nothing about the media.”
[Winnie Cirino- VOA]: “So when journalists approach government officials they should be willing to share with journalists whatever information that is available that is needed by the public. They shouldn’t hold this information like their private information because at any point they will leave that office and someone else will replace them. They should be willing to share information with journalists.”
The International Day for Universal Access to Information is celebrated every year on 28 September.
This year’s team is ‘The Right to Know – Building Back Better with Access to Information.’
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