JUBA, OCTOBER 6, 2023 (SUDANS POST) – The South Sudan government has admitted to removing articles from newspapers before they were printed, saying that it does so in order to protect journalists from being arrested and jailed.
However, critics argue that the government’s actions are a form of censorship and that they violate the right to freedom of expression.
Speaking to reporters following a regular cabinet meeting in Juba on Friday, information minister and government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth said that articles are removed from newspapers to prevent the dissemination of hate speech or inciting hatred among people in the country.
“Yes, we do sometimes remove articles from the newspapers, why are they removed? When you write an article that is hate speech or inciting hatred or anything as such, such an article ought to be removed because we don’t want to move against the author of that article and we don’t want to move against the newspaper or the media that printed that article,” he said.
The senior government official’s admission comes a day after the UN Human Rights Commission on South Sudan said in a damning report yesterday that members of the media and civil society activities were being harassed by the government.
The report, titled “Entrenched Repression: the systemic curtailment of democratic and civic space in South Sudan,” examines the current situation of South Sudanese media and civil society actors, both in and outside the country.
The report details how the National Security Service (NSS) imposes the State’s regime of censorship in newsrooms and interferes heavily with the activities of civil society groups.
According to the report, National Security officers deploy to newsrooms to review content and cut stories deemed critical or inconvenient to the government, including coverage of political and human rights issues.
Makuei said news articles are removed to prevent fights that he said may cause insecurity in the country.
“Otherwise for the interest of all, we remove that article and keep quiet because it is unhealthy, it is insecure if the article is inciting hatred then it ought to be removed instead of us allowing it to go to the public and then people fight over it and causing insecurity, we would prefer to take it out, otherwise, we don’t want to take that author to the court, this is why we are removing,” he said.
The minister described it as a “protective measure” aimed at ensuring the safety of journalists and writers.
“This is a protective measure instead of waiting for something to happen after which we will react, and so that is what we are doing and if you want us to take people to the court, then we are ready to do that because we believe that by removing the article and keeping quiet is better than taking that person to the court,” he concluded.
Critics of the government’s actions argue that the removal of articles from newspapers is a form of censorship and that it violates the right to freedom of expression.
They also say that the government’s claims of protecting journalists have not been substantiated, and that there have been numerous reports of journalists being arrested and jailed for their work in South Sudan.
They also point out that the government’s claim to be protecting journalists is contradicted by the UN Human Rights Commission report, which states that the NSS deploys to newsrooms to review content and cut stories deemed critical or inconvenient to the government.
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