By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 23rd April 2020
First, it is should be noted that South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation SSBC is not a department within the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services which Michael Makuei Lueth is heading. The law is clear that SSBC is a public institution accountable to the public through the National Legislative Assembly pursuant to the provisions of the Broadcasting Corporation Act, 2013, despite some of the imperfections of the same Act that require reform and the continues interferences by the government. Further, the Broadcasting Corporation Act, inter alia, provides for the transformation of the State-owned Media into public broadcasters, independent from political or economic control by the government. Matters of SSBC should be handled in line with the Broadcasting Corporation Act and as the law requires, not a ministerial order that is inconsistent with the Broadcasting Corporation Act, like the one issued by Information Minister Makuei last week.
The Minister of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services has no power to suspend SSBC Managing Director. In fact, no law provides for suspension of SSBC Managing Director. The Broadcasting Corporation Act provides only for removal of SSBC Managing Director, and still in that, it is the Board of Directors of SSBC that, by a resolution of two-thirds of all its Members, has the power to remove SSBC Managing Director from office, subject to provisions of the Broadcasting Corporation Act.
Though Makuei is right that the term of office of the current Board of Directors of SSBC expired, it does not mean that as minister of information, he now has the power to suspend SSBC Managing Director. Makuei also has no power to appoint “acting” Managing Director for SSBC like he has claimed to have done in his last week’s ministerial order. Sections 17 (2), 7 (7), and 7 (8) of the Broadcasting Corporation Act which he cited in his order neither gave him the power to suspend SSBC Managing Director nor the power to appoint an acting Managing Director. Also, the Presidential Decree no No.33/2020 which he cited in the same order is not any special but simply the decree the President issued for the appointment of the RTGoNU ministers including Makuei himself. No special power comes from that.
What ought to be done?
As of now, it is not upon Makuei or one party but the Executive of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity that has powers, per Article 18.104.22.168 of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), to supervise and facilitate the reform and reconstitution of SSBC, “paying particular attention to the mandate and appointments, to ensure their [the Corporation’s] independence and accountability.” The R-ARCSS provides for this to be carried out during the current transitional period, hence the parties to the Agreement should live up to those terms.
It is worth pointing out that, on its Supremacy, the R-ARCSS stipulates that its terms shall take precedence over any national legislation (including the Broadcasting Corporation Act) and that in the event that the provisions of a national legislation conflict with the terms of the R-ARCSS, the provisions of the R-ARCSS shall prevail.
That, however, does not mean invalidating the Broadcasting Corporation Act; the provisions of the R-ARCSS on SSBC matters are limited and should be implemented as such. Many more should be done by reforming the Broadcasting Corporation Act, 2013. On how to do that, improve the SSBC, ensure the right of access to information and press freedom in South Sudan, read the recent book: Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan, published by the author of this article.
Once again, Makuei has no power to suspend SSBC Managing Director. He also has no power to appoint an acting Managing Director for SSBC.