Journalist decries lack of access to information
A senior journalist has expressed concerns over the continued lack of access to information, saying it impedes the media’s role in informing the public.
Nema Juma, the News Editor of Juba Monitor said lack of information access has become one of the tools used to devalue the role of journalists to provide accurate and timely information to the public.
She said both the private and public institutions have been hesitant to availing the needed information for public consumption. This results in torture and arbitrary detention of journalists who might struggle to access some information in the interest of the public.
“Access to information is an important right for the growth and development of a society in any country like South Sudan,” said Nema.
She added: “But the reality on the ground is that accessing information across South Sudan is hard because individuals and institutions responsible for the provision of public information are too conservative or political.”
According to Chapter One, Sub-Section 4 of the South Sudan Media Authority Act 2013, access to information is fundamental to the fulfillment of Human Rights and essential in the fight against corruption.
Article 32 of the country’s constitution provides for rights of access to official information and records, including electronic in the possession of any level of government in South Sudan or any organs or agencies of the government.
Also, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights— South Sudan has ratified—provide for unhindered access to access to information.
“The impact of delayed access to information has high negative implications on the development and growth agenda. We have good laws in South Sudan like access to information, but still availing information is restricted. Some journalists have been detained and media houses shut for struggling to access information of public interest,” she said.
She calls on the authorities to ensure unhindered access to information to make the work of journalists and media operations in the country easy.
“When journalists want to interview a certain [government] official, they should avail information to enable them to deliver on their role. The country cannot develop without journalists. They should give us a space to do our jour job,” said Nema.
On September 29, the Executive Director of Community Network South Sudan (CoMNeTTSS) Josephine Achiro lamented that inaccessibility to information was the biggest issue journalists and media houses face in the country.
“We used to have complaints and it is not out of the blue that access to information is the biggest problem that we have in South Sudan,” said Ms. Achiro.
The UNESCO South Sudan Country Representative Julias Banda argued that access to information empowers the society, holds leaders accountable, and contributes to sustainable development in a country.
“Access to information is a human right that serves the entire public in partnership with civil society and media. When citizens have access to information held by the public body, society as a whole is empowered to contribute to sustainable development and rebuild their community,” said Banda.
He added, “Access to information is essential to hold leaders accountable to increase safety in the field of health and to ensure other human rights.
“The right to information [when exercised] ensures that government informs citizens on the essence which is especially relevant in the time of crisis,” she said.
In 2020, Reporters Without Borders, a global group of journalists ranked South Sudan among countries with the most dangerous environments for journalists.