The South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee, Communication Unit in collaboration with the Communication and Information Committee in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with support from UNESCO carried out a two-day workshop aimed at ensuring access to information and freedom of expression for a successful national dialogue process.
The workshop under the theme “Free Speech is Your Constitutional Right” was conducted from 12-13 April 2018 at Juba Grand Hotel. Over fifty participants including members of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, parliamentarians, members of civil society organizations, faith-based groups and media practitioners attended.
During the workshop, many important topics were discussed including citizens’ rights to access information and the role of civil society in ensuring freedom of expression.
Honourable Gabriel Yoal Dok, Deputy Co-Chair of the National Dialogue, delivered the keynote speech stating “As MPs and senior government officials, let’s assure our people that they are free to speak out, we want this peace to come to our people if there is freedom of expression.”
Honourable Paul Yoane Bonju, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Communication and Information in the TNLA, appealed to the leadership of the National Dialogue “to ensure that media is appropriately used during the process for people to express their concerns.”
Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO’s Representative to South Sudan, stated that “without freedom of expression and an independent press, it will not be possible to have sustainable peace in South Sudan.”
The workshop was organised under UNESCO’s project “Strengthening Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation in South Sudan” which is supported by United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).
At the end of the workshop, the participants came up with 19 recommendations on how to improve access to information and freedom of expression during the National Dialogue process:
- Enforcement of Freedom of expression as enshrined in National Constitution by all institutions of government.
- NDSC should monitor developments in states to ensure that nobody is victimized for what he/she might have said during consultations.
- Government to recognize media as a powerful and effective tool for educating the public.
- Journalists should be encouraged to disseminate National Dialogue information to the public through various media outlets.
- MPs to embrace the principles of national dialogue by encouraging their constituencies to speak freely about National Dialogue in the media.
- The MPs should break the culture of silence and speak freely as enshrined in the National Constitution.
- Journalists should not be subjected to arrest and other unfavorable restrictions while doing their work.
- There should be no censorship on what is said by people during national dialogue consolations in the whole country
- Establishment of National Dialogue information sharing center.
- Journalists and the media houses are encouraged to be professional in their work.
- Hate speeches and fake news should be discouraged
- Inclusivity, transparency and credibility should be encouraged and tribalism should be discouraged.
- Discourage the culture of violence and embrace dialogue and reconciliation to resolve our problems.
- Organize similar workshops at grassroots level in all the states.
- National Dialogue Secretariat should establish a newsletter to disseminate information about the national dialogue
- All in all, free speeches must be within the laws
- Access to Information Commission to help citizens become aware of their Right to access information through media outlets.
- Commission to continually conduct research on all information about South Sudan history.
- National Dialogue Steering Committee should build relationship with civil society organizations to enhance expeditiously reach peace and reconciliation.
The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) was launched in 2006 to support activities, actions, programmes and organizations that seek to build a lasting peace in countries emerging from conflict. It supports peacebuilding activities that strengthen the capacity of governments, national/local institutions and transitional or other relevant authorities