The Media Authority says it is maintaining its rejection of 20 foreign journalists from reporting in South Sudan.
The Managing Director, Elijah Alier, said this month that the body had denied visas to the journalists because their reporting encourages hate speech and incite violence.
But this week, the head of the communication unit of the National Dialogue Committee told foreign diplomats that the Media Authority had given assurances that any journalist would be allowed to report in South Sudan.
In a statement to Eye Radio, the Managing Director of the Media Authority, Elijah Alier, said the rejection of the 20 journalists from reporting in South Sudan remains in place.
Mr. Alier said their rejection was based on the magnitude of the damages and threats in the contents of their reports.
“The Media Authority therefore hereby asserted that the rejection cases of some of these individual journalists remain and not lifted,” Mr. Alier said in the statement.
“The Media Authority however has not rejected any foreign media house in its capacity as an institution to operate in the Republic of South Sudan or carry out media coverage,” he added.
An association of foreign correspondents had criticized the rejection of the journalists from reporting in South Sudan, saying the reporters in question were experienced professionals.
Last week, the Director of the Communication Unit at the National Dialogue Steering Committee, Alfred Taban, told diplomats in Juba that any journalist would be allowed to enter South Sudan.
Mr. Alfred said he had discussed the matter with the Mr. Alier.
“I asked, I said, ‘why do you not allow foreign journalists to come to the country’, and he promised me that this has been suspended,” Mr. Alfred told diplomats during a briefing on the national dialogue on Wednesday last week.
“They are now going to allow any journalist to come. They were preventing some journalists because they say some journalists were fond of criticism of what is happening in the country. They were in other words skeptics. I said, ‘whether skeptics or not, they must be allowed to come into the country,” he said.
The Media Authority issued the statement asserting the rejection days after Mr. Alfred spoke to the diplomats about lifting the ban.
In response to the insistence of the Media Authority, Mr. Alfred, who is also the Chairperson of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), said the association does not support journalists who do their work “unprofessionally”.
“AMDISS, of course, is worried if journalists are not allowed to come into the country. But as I said, the Managing Director said they have a record of these journalists who are denied and many of them have written inaccurate articles, biased articles,” Mr. Alfred told Eye Radio in response to a further inquiries about his previous statement on the rejection.
“So we don’t really support journalists who do their work unprofessionally and they want to come to South Sudan to do their work. They must be professional. They must write accurate articles and so forth,” he said.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa had criticized the move by the Media Authority to ban about twenty foreign journalists from reporting in the country.
The body, based in Nairobi, has called on the Government of South Sudan and the Media Authority to stop blocking international journalists.
“Staff members from some of the world’s leading news organizations, as well as freelancers, are among those affected. The majority report in the English language,” it said in a statement.
“Over the past six months, the FCAEA has made efforts to engage the senior leadership of relevant agencies in the Government of South Sudan on the issue, as well as engage donors, humanitarian organizations and other stakeholders,” the statement said. “The Media Authority has not responded to this inquiry,” the statement added.
The Media Authority says no media houses, as institutions, have been denied coverage of South Sudan.
Mr. Alier says the body has accepted 200 international journalists and will continue to allow journalists and media houses to carry out their coverage in accordance with the media regulations and as required by law.
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