The Media regulatory body has warned international donors not to interfere with independent media and their editorial policies.
The Managing Director of the Media Authority, Elijah Alier, says some international donors dictated the editorial policies and contents that violated professional journalism.
This came during the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day organized in Juba on Friday after the celebration initially happened on May 3rd was adjourned due to the holidays in South Sudan.
Alier raised concerns that the government’s lack of support for the media is a condition that prevents the promotion of professional and independent media in the country.
“Lack of government funding couples with some donor ‘condition to promote independent professional media are some of the contributing factors hindering the media development in South Sudan,” Alier said.
The Media Authority has called on the broadcasters and other channels to refrain from disinformation and misinformation from unreliable sources that cannot be substantiated.
“We have to change the narrative of the past reporting associated with misconceptions, full of misleading and negative reporting based on the confrontation between the government and their media,” said Alier.
Mr. Alier said the media’s long-term relationship with the government needs a transparent and accountable system to support the sustainability of independent media.
He called on the media houses to embrace the culture of peace and tolerance with a sense of humanity in all reporting based on public interest.
David Renz, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy, Juba, South Sudan, said journalists are indispensable to democracy, and freedom of the press is the lifeblood that makes democracy vibrant.
He urged the government to promote press freedom, protection of journalists, and citizens’ rights to unbiased, accurate information.
“World Press Freedom Day is an occasion to assess the state of press freedom, protection of journalists, and citizens’ rights to unbiased, accurate information. It’s a day to recognize the courage of journalists and remember those who have been harassed and intimidated, detained, kidnapped, tortured, or killed for simply doing their jobs,” he said.
A representative of state Journalists, Ibasi Patricia Tobs, expressed deep concern that some key government officials undermined the state’s media and denied offering an interview to the local houses in the state.
She said journalists at the grassroots levels try their best to ensure the people are informed. However, the media is still facing censorship that undermines the independence of media and access to information.
We know the biggest number of our people are at the grassroots level and media play critical roles in keeping our audiences informed. But an institution wants to exploit the radio station’s work and forced the management to give them a slot for free, which is not good since most community radio stations depend on locally generated revenue,” she said.
According to the Media Authority, no journalist in South Sudan is presently detained.
The Reporters without borders ranked South Sudan 139 out of 180 countries on the press freedom index in 2021 and dropped one place from its ranking in 2020.