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US call for free press and protection of journalists in South Sudan

US call for free press and protection of journalists in South Sudan
South Sudanese journalists during coverage at Sudan Peace Talk in Juba

The United States has called on the government to promote free access to information and not interfere with journalists’ reporting saying media freedom cannot be overemphasized.

The US. Chargé affairs in South Sudan, David Renz, says media is a tool to keep democracies operating vibrantly.

This came ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd South commemorated annually since 1993. This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme is “Journalism under Digital Siege.”

The diplomat says World Press Freedom Day offers a valuable opportunity to reflect on the importance of the freedom of the press in South Sudan.

“We celebrate the courage of journalists and remember those who have been harassed, intimidated, detained, kidnapped, tortured, or killed for simply doing their jobs,” said Renz.

Amb. Renz also urged the journalists to apply the highest code of conduct, ethics, and professionalism in their investigating and reporting and encouraged the Media Authority to redouble its efforts to ensure journalists can perform their responsibilities in a safe, protected environment.

“I urge all sectors of society to support the nation’s media organizations in their struggles against censorship, intimidation, unlawful arrests, and extralegal suspension of independent radio stations,” he said.

The official further said May 3rd should be used as an occasion for all sectors to discuss the state of press freedom, protection of journalists, and citizens’ rights to unbiased, accurate information.

The US said this theme underscores the increasing role of technology, which can be used to disseminate information more quickly and farther than ever before and for surveillance, and for spreading dis- and misinformation.

Renz further said the Repressive governments and heavy-handed security forces threaten the independent media.

According to Reporters Without Borders, South Sudan ranked 139 out of 180 countries on the press freedom index in 2021 and dropped one place from its ranking in 2020.