19th April 2024
Make a Donation

Rights expert calls for press freedom, civic space in South Sudan

Author: Keko Martin | Published: Sunday, February 18, 2024

Barney Afako, UN Commissioner on Human Rights in South Sudan, spoke during a joint press conference in Juba on Friday, February 16th, 2024. Photo Credit: Charles Wote/Eye Radio.

A UN Human Rights Commissioner in South Sudan has repeated calls on the government to open civic space and guarantee press freedom as the country heads toward elections.

Barney Afako said civil society organizations and the media must be free from arbitrary interference and restrictions while doing their jobs.

Mr. Afako also urged the National Security Service, South Sudan Media Authority and other information regulators to protect media freedom and safeguard free speech.

According to him, South Sudanese are longing for a peaceful and accountable society where human rights are respected.

Speaking to reporters in Juba on Friday, Afako said the repression and restriction placed on the media and civil society negatively affect transition to democracy in the country.

“Many of you will recall that we highlighted how ongoing repression and restriction placed on the media and civil society were affecting their work,” said the Ugandan lawyer and expert on transitional justice.

“We emphasized the need for all actors including the national security service, Media authority and others to ensure and protect the necessary freedoms for the media and civic actors to carry their activities and functions.”

“We also call on other actors to siege arbitrary interference and restrictions. And we continue to renew this call particularly as South Sudan is moving towards elections.”

In its October 2023 report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found that entrenched repression imperils prospects for peace, human rights and credible elections.

The Commission said the South Sudan government must urgently cease unlawful media censorship, end intolerable restrictions on civic and political activities, and halt attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.

“Independent media and a vibrant civil society represent critical voices in developing accountable governance, and the democratic processes required to enable peace and ensure human rights,” said the commission chairperson, Yasmin Sooka.

“Surprisingly the Government instead treats journalists and civil society members who voice critique as enemies of the ruling political party, reflecting its extreme intolerance of all forms of public scrutiny and critical views. This does not bode well for democratic prospects.”

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan is an independent body mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Commission is mandated to investigate the situation of human rights in South Sudan and to make recommendations to prevent a deterioration of the situation, with a view to its improvement.

The Commission is also mandated to determine and report the facts and circumstances of human rights violations and abuses, including by clarifying responsibility for crimes under national and or international law.

First established in March 2016, it has been renewed annually since, but this year, the South Sudan government has preconditioned the renewal of the commission’s mandate, which expires in April 2024.

Support Eye Radio, the first independent radio broadcaster of news, information & entertainment in South Sudan.

Make a monthly or a one off contribution.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!