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UJOSS blasts Jonglei gov’t over local language directive

UJOSS blasts Jonglei gov’t over local language directive
Radio Jonglei 95.9 FM studio in Bor | Credit | Courtesy

The Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) has criticized Jonglei State government for an attempt to gag the state-based radio stations.

There are four radio stations in the state, three of which are faith-based and one commercial Radio, namely: Voice of Reconciliation 94 FM, Jonglei Adventist Radio 94.5 FM, Voice of Peace 91.1 FM, and Radio Jonglei 95.9 FM, respectively.

On November 4, the Ministry for Information asked all the media houses to first seek approval from the government before broadcasting and radio talk show or announcement.

This is because the talk show hosts sometimes conduct the shows in local languages, mostly Dinka.

“The Ministry of Information and Communication received several complaints from the public, expressing their dissatisfaction from public announcements and radio talk shows that are usually made in one language most particularly within Bor Town, which is the state capital and is inhabited by all speakers of the dominant languages of Dinka, Nuer, and Anyuak,” writes Mhamad Chuol, director general.

“Therefore, this directive serves to inform you the local radio stations and microphone announcers to firstly seek ministry’s approval before rushing to announce any information meant for public consumption.”

The official based the decision on the “unity of our people which starts from equal treatment”.

However, UJOSS President Patrict Oyet disagrees with the restriction, saying use of local languages “should be encouraged, not discouraged”.

“We, the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, encourage media houses to operate in local languages because people understand the content better when it is passed  in a local language,” he told Mingkaman FM.

Oyet wondered why the state government would force the the media outlets to broadcast in all the three languages yet  the national broadcaster (SSBC) itself does not air programs in all the languages in the country.

“The state-owned television is unable to bring all the local languages on air. So, it will be difficult if you tell media houses to use all the local languages,” he argued.

Section 24 of South Sudan Interim Constitution 2011 says “All levels of government shall guarantee the freedom of the press and other media as shall be regulated by law in a democratic society”.

But Chuol insists on the constitution, which recognizes only two official languages – English and Arabic.

“The national languages that are spoken in this country are English and Arabic; and if there is anything that needs to be broadcast in local languages, it must include other local languages,” he stated.

“If it is broadcast in one language, how will the rest of the tribes or languages get the information?”

When contacted, the Media Authority – the government body tasked with regulating media in South Sudan, said it was not aware of the matter.