South Sudan’s latest media crackdown involves Catholic radio station Good News Radio, which allegedly investigated a scantily reported prisoner’s death, according to Reuters.
Though the country gained independence in 2011, journalists and media professionals have continued to speak out claiming that they’ve been victims of harassment and unlawful detainment by the country’s security forces, Reuters reported. Since February, New York’s Human Rights Watch reported that South Sudan’s army detained 130 civilians without cause.
Fernando Colombo, owner of Good News Radio said that the station was accused of government criticism and as a result, they were ordered last Friday to suspend broadcasts for the weekend. On Monday evening, the station returned on-air, but only played music, Reuters reported.
“The Lakes state government is intimidating the media, harassing media personnel and trying to malign those who are speaking against the abuses of human rights,” head of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy, Biel Boutrous Biel, said in the report.
Reuters also reported that although South Sudan does not enforce media laws limiting press freedom, the country ranks 124th out of 179 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index. The country’s standing fell 13 places from the prior 2011-2012 index.
“South Sudanese journalists are increasingly engaged in self-censorship because of the harassment they face in connection with their work,” Netsanet Belay, Africa director at Amnesty International, said in a Human Rights Watch report. “This is deeply worrying and in contradiction with South Sudan’s Constitution, which requires the government to guarantee freedom of press.”
The Human Rights Watch also reported that journalists have been advised to steer clear of reporting corruption and issues the country’s ruling party — the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) — deals with.
“The South Sudanese authorities have done far too little to end unlawful detention of media workers in recent years,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in the same report. “The government should rein in its security forces and investigate and prosecute all attacks on journalists.”
According to the Human Rights Watch, the SPLM doesn’t have the authority to detain civilians under South Sudanese law. Still, some journalists have been forced to flee the country because of word-of-mouth and written death threats.