Honor the heroism of journalists on World Press Freedom Day’-US Envoy
The Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Juba, David Renz, in a statement to honor World Press Freedom Day, said the day gives a wonderful chance to reflect on the significance of the freedom of the press in South Sudan.
Today is World Press Freedom Day, held annually since 1993.
“May 3 is an occasion for all sectors of society – media representatives, civil society leaders, government officials, security personnel, academicians, and others – to discuss the state of press freedom, protection of journalists, and citizens’ rights to unbiased, accurate information,” Renz’s statement read. “We commemorate the heroism of journalists and remember those who have been harassed, intimidated, arrested, abducted, tortured, or slain for just performing their jobs.”
He said South Sudan is at the crossroads of a key shift in the execution of the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement.
“There is much that needs to be done in the remaining months of the transition phase to prepare the way for the elections the parties pledged to in the renewed peace agreement,” he added. “Freedom of the press is protected under Article 24 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011. Allowing the press to work freely so it may cover the news openly, correctly, and transparently is crucial to securing a fair, free, credible, and democratic election, as President Kiir has called for and the South Sudanese people deserve.”
According to Reporters without Borders, South Sudan rated 139 out of 180 nations on the press freedom index in 2021, falling one spot from its rating in 2020.
“I notice the United States rated 44 on the same list, which demonstrates that America too has potential to grow. At this important time in South Sudan’s history, I encourage the Media Authority to redouble its efforts to guarantee journalists can do their obligations in a secure, protected environment,” Renz added.
“I encourage all segments of society to assist the nation’s media organizations in their fights against censorship, intimidation, illegal arrests, and extralegal suspension of independent radio stations,” he continued.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day topic is “Journalism under Digital Siege”.
“This subject underlines the expanding importance of technology, which can be used not just to broadcast information more swiftly and further than ever before but also for spying and for disseminating dis- and misinformation,” the ambassador stated. “Repressive regimes and heavy-handed security agencies are deploying the most advanced tactics and technology to trespass into the privacy of ordinary residents and journalists to acquire access to their personal information.”
He said this allows censors to acquire information before it is even publicized and enables authorities to monitor journalists and that surveillance in the digital domain represents a breach of privacy. He stated that even more alarming, these coercive actions undermine the independence of the media.
“The significance of media independence cannot be overemphasized. It is the lifeblood that keeps democracies working vibrantly. Government should do its role by assuring unfettered access to information and not interfering with journalists’ reporting. Equally, journalists should adopt the highest code of conduct, ethics, and professionalism in their investigation and reporting,” he advised.
According to Renz, at a time when the truth is increasingly under assault, the necessity for honest, fact-based reporting, free public discourse, and accountability has never been higher.
“Journalists expose the truth, throw the focus on abuses of power, and advocate openness from those in control. The capacity of journalists to acquire and investigate facts and report them is crucial for supporting the free flow of information and ideas that enable citizens to hold their governments accountable,” he added.
“Journalists are crucial to the operation of democracy, both in South Sudan and internationally. Today we join South Sudan and free countries throughout the globe as we resolve to safeguard and promote the freedom of the press,” the ambassador said.