MPs under fire for barring media coverage on salaries
South Sudan’s Media Development Institute has slammed the statement issued by the country’s Reconstituted Translational National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) warning media houses against covering their salaries.
On Saturday, the R-TNLA warned journalists and media houses of punitive measures if they would dare to cover parliamentary emoluments.
The statement was issued after the lawmakers received millions of South Sudanese Pounds (SSPs) in their bank accounts for payments.
The Speaker of R-TNLA Jemma Nunu Kumba directed the MPs to open accounts so that the administrations of the two houses could pay money directly to their establishment fund.
“Yes, I personally received money being deposited into my account, I checked my account and I got something more than 2,000 USD,” a legislator who declined to be named told a local media in Juba.
Designated Chairperson of Information of R-TNLA Yoane Bonju cautioned the media against reporting about lawmakers’ emoluments claiming such news reports could stir the public anger against the Members of Parliament.
“Please, avoid eyeing at the emoluments of the Members of this Parliament. It has never happened in any part of the world that media houses focus on emoluments of members of parliament,” Mr. Yoane warned in a statement.
But in a rejoinder, Principal of Media Development Institute Ayaa Irene Lokang said the gag would only imply that lawmakers are trying to run away from accountability and transparency.
“For the purpose of accountability and transparency, journalists have the right and should be allowed to report about the earning of MPs, unless they are trying to avoid and hide accountabilities and transparency,” the MDI boss said, adding that “MPs are public officials and they are using public resources, therefore, the public has the right to know about their activities.”
She said the right to access to information has been given to the public and they should have any classified information of interest.
“Journalists and media houses are supposed to cover anything of public interest. Public rights to information should not be denied; the getting and covering information about MPs is good for transparency,” she emphasized.
She said such a statement is not something expected from the MPs adding the statement is terrifying, and threatening journalists and media houses in the country.