Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

S.Sudan:On Right of Access to Information, Media Associations and Related Matters

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 19th September 2020

South Sudan’s Right of Access to Information Act, 2013, in Section 35, enshrines the following:

1-    The Minister (Minister responsible for Information and Broadcasting) shall in consultation with media associations and the civil society submit to the President a list of four candidates from which the President shall nominate the Information Commissioner and his or her Deputy to the National Legislative Assembly for vetting and approval.

2-    The procedure for the appointment under subsection (1) of Section 35 of The Right of Access to Information Act shall be transparent, allowing opportunity for the public, media and civil society to make presentations to the select Committee of the National Legislative Assembly hearings concerning the candidates for appointment…

3-    The Members nominated for appointment under subsection (1) and subsection (2) of Section 35 of The Right of Access to Information Act, shall be vetted by relevant committees of the National Legislative Assembly with due consideration for qualifications, merit, integrity, competence and moral standing of the person to be appointed as the Information Commissioner.

4-    To be eligible for appointment as a Commissioner a person shall: (a) be a South Sudanese of more than 18 years with relevant qualifications (b) not be an official or employee of a political party; (c) not be a holder of an elected position at any level of Government; (d) not be an un-discharged bankrupt or insolvent.

Section 6(13) (n) of the Media Authority Act, 2013 provides that, amongst others, journalists shall have the right to form professional associations and to promote professionalism.

Indeed, right now, there is deadlock arising from technicalities of some sections of the Right of Access to Information Act.

Also, though there are media associations in South Sudan formed in line with the media laws, a number of them are pro secret political groupings pushing for selfish interests (harmful ones) of a few politicians, not national and public interests.

For this reason, good South Sudanese journalists and media personal should also form their media associations in line with Section 6(13) (n) of the Media Authority Act, 2013 so that they can participate effectively for national and public interests on matters such as future nomination of Information Commissioner and his or her Deputy as provided for in 35(1) of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2013. And also in several other nominations as per all the three media laws.

While it is good to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement together with the institutional and legal reforms provided in it, the reforms needed in the three media laws should be worked on, especially through the Rome Peace Process through which existing positive peace efforts could be complemented. While prioritising peace, it also means mentioning the Media Authority Act, 2013, The Right of Access to Information Act, 2013 and The Broadcasting Corporation Act, 2013, among those to be reformed, so as to ensure the right to freedom of expression, the right of the public to access information, and freedom of the press in South Sudan.

On how to improve those laws, read my book: Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan, available in Bookshops in Nairobi and on Amazon.

Then, together with other reforms, it shall be possible to create that democratic South Sudan.

“The media, in South Sudan, like it is globally can offer a platform for various voices that seek to promote tolerance, dialogue, cohesion and compromise. This will ensure an all-inclusive national healing and dialogue and also shape the development agenda of the country,” said the then deputy chair of the ARCSS Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission while calling for the protection of fundamental principles of press freedom and an end of the crackdown on journalists in South Sudan. He was and still right.