JUBA — The United States has accused the government of South Sudan of barring the media from reporting about corruption in the country.
David Renz, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy in Juba said that government security forces have increased censorship and arbitrary arrests; an act which he said has forced many journalists to flee the country for safety.
“The facts on the ground say otherwise. The government actively censors the press. Radio stations are routinely shut down,” Renz said during celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Juba on Friday.
“Journalists are asked not to cover certain topics, including corruption. Journalists have had to flee and go into hiding because they have dared to report the truth. Let me cite just a few examples; I’m sure many of you can cite several others.”
Renz claimed that the government has freely used the powers of the state to act against those it deems a threat.
“No doubt, the government will deny that it censors the press and will object to these benchmarks,” he said.
He alleged that the government doesn’t respect freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of the press in the country.
“But the facts speak for themselves. These are not the hallmarks of a country that respects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of the press. This is not a country with open civic space,” he said.
“South Sudan faces momentous decisions about its future. Especially now a free press is needed to report the news and to serve as a platform for the robust exchange of ideas and debate.”
He called on the Media Authority to redouble its efforts to ensure journalists can perform their responsibilities in a safe and protected environment.
“Unrestricted dialogue is the only way to forge a national consensus on South Sudan’s future. At this critical point in your history, I call on the Media Authority to redouble its efforts to ensure journalists can perform their responsibilities in a safe, protected environment,” he said.
“I urge all sectors of society to support the nation’s media organizations in their struggles against censorship, intimidation, unlawful arrests, and extralegal suspension of independent radio stations.”
On March 3, 2022, a journalist with Eye Radio was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in the capital Juba.
On February 22, eight journalists were detained for covering a press conference at the parliament that opposition members of parliament had invited them to attend.
Government security personnel continue to remove dozens of articles from the press media houses in Juba.