W. Bahr el Ghazal: Media outlets barred from speaking to gov’t officials, except for the governor and d. governor.
Until further notice, the administration of Western Bahr el Ghazal State has imposed a gag order preventing media outlets from communicating with state officials.
Except for the governor and deputy governor, the office of Deputy Governor Zachariah Joseph Garang has written to all media outlets in the nation prohibiting them from speaking with government officials and relevant authorities.
“You are thus asked not to record or broadcast any media comments from any constitutional office holders and relevant authorities in the state save H.E the Governor and Hon. Deputy Governor of WBGS/Wau who are the only trustworthy sources” says part of the letter obtained by NCMP.
“As a result, we implore your authorities to comply and follow these instructions without fail,” the letter continues.
Mr. Alexander Upiou Angelo, the executive director in the office of the deputy governor, signed the order, which was issued in Wau on Wednesday.
It’s unclear what triggered such a directive.
Speaking in Radio Tamazuj report seen by NCMP, Mr. Oyet Patrick, President of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, reacted to the news by saying that the state government’s newest action will further limit the scope of operation of media outlets, limiting press freedom.
“That is a clear infringement of journalists’ rights, and it will make their job more difficult,” Oyet Patrick added. “The majority of our activity is in the public interest.” What if a constitutionally appointed official is accused of corruption or some other crime, and members of the public want to hear from that official?” he wondered.
If the state authorities have any concerns against journalists or media outlets, Oyet urged them to go through the proper channels via the Media Authority.
“The latest development in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, where a state order was issued for journalists or media houses not to speak to constitutional post holders, except for the governor and her deputy, is a serious concern because access to information will be a problem,” Edmund Yakani, the head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), which promotes civil society values, said.
“This trend is concerning because it limits the ability to access information and freedom of expression, particularly when journalists need fast information on any state development,” he said. Constitutionally, the minister of information and any other relevant ministers have the right to talk to the media.”
The injunction “violates freedom of speech and the press,” according to the famous civil society campaigner, who called on the state administration to revoke it.
“The key issue that the state government has to address is what will happen if the governor and deputy governor are both busy and unable to talk to the media, and the public wants to be informed about what is going on at the state and county levels in a timely manner?” he questioned.
Article 24 of South Sudan’s transitional constitution protects freedom of speech, information, and the press, and permits only legal limitations on these rights.