South Sudan journalists’ exodus from media worries expert

Written by: 
Eliab Tukamushaba

A South Sudan media expert has blamed the increasing number of journalists leaving the profession to the heightened threats and attacks that media personnel face at work.William Dhiue, a Journalism Lecturer at the University of Juba, said that several journalists now prefer to join other sectors rather than continue to work as journalists.“The journalists have migrated to either government offices as public relations officers or they have taken up humanitarian jobs as communication officers. The profession is deserted and so the number of journalists joining the profession is on the decline and I am afraid, fake news and disinformation will likely take over,” Dhieu said.Despite provisions in Article 24 of South Sudan’s transitional constitution that grant freedom of expression and the press, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and illegal killings of civilians and abduction of civil society and human rights activists by security agents have become commonplace.

Journalists who dare to criticize the government risk clashing with state officials. The arrest and detention of journalists is very common in South Sudan, and the reasons are never clear to the detained journalist and the public, and those responsible never seem to face any consequences.Dhieu observed that the few remaining practicing journalists are exercising self-censorship, leaving the public inadequately informed on all the events and government policies.

"Media and journalists are not independent because the government has so much control and journalists fear for their lives. The iron hand of the security has poisoned the working environment for journalists," said Dhieu.While compiling this story, I contacted one female journalist who declined to comment about the press freedom situation in South Sudan saying, “There’s no story worth my life. Our government is not that easy to talk about."

South Sudan ranks 139th out of 180 countries, where one is freest, on the 2021 global press freedom index. In December 2013, President Kiir signed into law the Media Authority Act, the Broadcasting Corporation Act, and the Right of Access to Information Act. These three are also known as the ‘Media Laws’, and they remain the key legal frameworks promoting press freedoms and access to information in South Sudan.