Jungle rule denies justice, says gov’t official

Jungle rule denies justice, says gov’t official

A senior official in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has said South Sudan still lags in enforcing rule of law despite having good laws. 

The Legal Counselor at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nhial Awuol, said ordinary citizens and the authorities have escaped from the law as a result of failure to promptly enforce it.

“We have authorities using too much power instead of implementing the law. [If] there is lack of implementation of the law not only at the Ministry of Justice alone but everybody will have challenges,” Nhial said.

He was speaking during the marking of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in Juba yesterday. 

The event was organised by the local media in partnership with media authorities, UNESCO, Norweigan People Aid, and the British embassy in Juba.

Nhial stressed that national security has taken over most of the work supposed to be carried out by the police.

On his part, the Director-General of Information and Compliance of Media Authority, Sapana Abui, said the authority had already resolved more than 100 cases including defamation that have been filed against journalists.

“It is a right of the media to [give] the information but they should also respect the protocol so that they will also be respected by the authorities,’’ he said. 

“The journalists must mind the dressing code and have an identity card so that the authority should not be suspicious of them,” he said.

“Safety begins with you. Journalists must understand ethics and the law. For that reason there must be appropriate training,” he added. 

However, the Head of Development Communication at the University of Juba, Prof. Chaplain Kara Yokoju, said the media environment in South Sudan is not conducive for journalism.

He said several times journalists have been arrested, intimidated, and detained by security.

He said conflict-sensitive reporting, war and crime reporting have been a challenge because journalists live in fear of being intimidated and arrested.

“National Security has a law to arrest journalists, there is nothing amended in the constitution. This is the work of the media authority. I must appreciate the police because they have been doing their mandate to protect people and their properties,” Prof. Kara said.

“Where did the national security get the power to arrest a journalist. Where is the law? We all fought for freedom and independence. So the media is guided by the law of South Sudan,” he added.

The fourth estate

A Member of Parliament in the Council of States and former Minister of Information of Central Equatoria State, Paulino Lokudu said media has been recognised in South Sudan and globally for their good work.

“We are there as the legislative assembly to [prevent] the arrest and detention of journalists because media is the fourth estate of the government,” he said.

Jackeline Nasiwa, a representative of South Sudan female lawyers, said media freedom and access to information are fundamental rights as they allow the democratic processes to thrive.

“As we celebrate the day, we have to know that journalists have been suffering and we should know that media plays a great role. It’s very central in the governance,” Nasiwa said. 

Last month, United Nations Human Rights Council warned that continued threats, harassment, and intimidation of the prominent human rights defenders including journalists could have a “chilling effect” on the peace process.

The Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to the Human Rights Council, Yasmin Sooka, said public participation in the country was diminishing, hence, this would undermine the effort to achieve sustainable peace.

She said the “role played by overzealous security service in preventing dissent and criticism causes key stakeholders involved in conditional and transitional justice processes to flee the country and discourages the participation of others. It negates the government’s efforts in these critical areas’’.

The Human Rights Watch said it was concerned over the plight of some prominent civil society activists whose contributions were very important in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner on South Sudan, Andrew Clapham, said targeting the high profile human rights defenders, mostly civil society and journalists, will discourage public participation and destroy confidence in the important process of transitional justice including the constitution-making process and national election.