The President of South Sudan Union of Journalists has reiterated calls on the government to permit freedom of expression as the country gears towards a planned elections.
Oyet Patrick’s call came as the world celebrates Press Freedom today.
Observed on May 3rd annually, the day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom.
It is also a day of support for the media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom.
Moreover, it is to remember journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.
This year’s theme of the day is, “Journalism Under Digital Siege.”
Commenting on this, Patrick Oyet says journalists in the country continue to operate in a challenging environment where they are often arrested and denied access to information.
“We have also challenges with the government in terms of sometimes not providing information, we have challenges with some individuals within institutions who arrest Journalists, ask them to apologize, detain them,” Oyet told Eye Radio.
“Freedom of the media in general is very important because freedom of expression protects the other fundamental human rights.
“If I am free to talk then when I see my brother being arrested without due cause, I am free to report that my brother was arrested and there was no arrest warrant and I don’t even know where he has been taken.
“It’s grantee in the constitution article 24 of the transitional constitution of South Sudan 2011 and article 32 .24 talks about freedom of expression and 32 talks about access for information.”
Despite the challenges, Oyet has encouraged journalists not to give up their professionalism.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
In August last year, Vice President, Dr. James Wani Igga reminded government institutions to facilitate access to information and the freedom of media for South Sudan to prosper.
Since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011, freedom of expression has been severely restricted.
According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.
In February last year, Amnesty International revealed a report accusing the national security of using abusive surveillance to terrorize journalists, activists, and government critics.
A report by Reporters without Borders has revealed that South Sudan dropped one step backward in last year’s World Press Freedom Index ranking.
South Sudan ranks number 139 out of 180 countries in the annual press freedom index released last year, dropping a place from last year’s ranking of 138.
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