National Dialogue Hosts Forum on Press Freedom in South Sudan
On Thursday, January 18th, 2018, the National Dialogue of South Sudan convened a high-level forum on press freedom in South Sudan. The all-day event took place in Juba, South Sudan, at the Juba Grand Hotel. The event was led by National Dialogue Head of Information and Communications, Hon Alfred Taban, in conjunction with AMDISS, the Association for Media Development in South Sudan. Mr. Taban, a career journalist, and editor-in-chief of the Juba Monitor, formerly chaired AMDISS before joining the National Dialogue Secretariat. The event was sponsored by the Government of Japan and will be held under the theme of “Fostering Freedom of Expression and Access to Information to create a conducive environment for National Dialogue and peacebuilding.”
“… if we search for news beyond the bare facts, and present more information to citizens, including possible solutions, they may see the conflict in different terms and they will definitely opt for peace.”
– Co-Chair Angelo Beda, Juba, 18th of January, 2018
The Event was covered by UNESCO’s ReliefWeb and is printed in full with permission below:
The South Sudan National Dialogue Secretariat and the Association of Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) held a forum on 18 January 2017 to assess the state of freedom of expression and media ‘role in peacebuilding and to discuss the importance of Access to Information and Safety for all stakeholders during the National Dialogue process.
The forum, which was organised with support from UNESCO, UNDP, the Government of Japan and The UN Peacebuilding Fund, brought together more than 100 delegates drawn from media practitioners, human rights organisations, CSOs, youth organisations, representatives of media associations, parliamentarians, government representatives, UN agencies, diplomatic missions and various actors and media development stakeholders. “Creating plurality and allowing diversity of voices through media help publicize the efforts of positive engagement of mass media in peace processes,” says Mary Ajith, Acting chairperson (AMDISS).
During the conference, the Co-Chair of the National Dialogue, Angelo Beda called on civil society organizations and media to support all peace initiatives and appreciated local media houses for working hard in covering the National Dialogue. He also urged the authorities to provide and facilitate access for international media houses to cover the national dialogue process for the international community including South Sudanese in the diaspora to get the right information on the ground. “If we only report the bare facts about issues such as violent conflict, citizens will only understand the conflict in those terms. However, if we search for news beyond the bare facts, and present more information to citizens, including possible solutions, they may see the conflict in different terms and they will definitely opt for peace.” Beda emphasized.
The right to freedom of expression underpins a free, pluralistic, inclusive and independent media environment which is very critical for any peace process
– Sardar Umar Alam, Juba, 18th of January, 2018
The UNESCO Representative to South Sudan, Sardar Umar Alam said that Communication and Media are central to promoting sustainable peace, development, and democracy. “The right to freedom of expression underpins a free, pluralistic, inclusive and independent media environment which is very critical for any peace process”. On this basis, UNESCO and partners would continue to support a series of platforms for dialogue in order to improve issues related to freedom of expression, the safety of media practitioners and access to information in the country.
Justine Alier De Mayen, Under Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and Postal Services, applauded the organizers and assured the delegates that Freedom of Expression is guaranteed to all citizens and it is enshrined in the South Sudan Constitution and it should be exercised responsibly to reconcile and unite the nation.
The delegates to the conference called for a twofold comprehensive media strategy: peace-oriented media and regulation of negative media practices that enable violence.
The regulatory body is urged to remain independent and resist political pressures from the government and other power structures and to collaborate with media self-regulatory institutions in the development of guidelines that regulate media content, prohibit incitement, and hate speech and encourage the environment that protects journalists in their work.