South Sudan Media Threaten Legal Action Against Minister

Last month Information and Broadcasting Minister Michael Makuei issued a verbal order demanding all journalists and media agencies in the country to register with his Ministry. [File]

Last month Makuei issued a verbal order demanding all journalists and media agencies in the country to register with his Ministry.

His call though not explained was viewed as part reforms in the Ministry after being appointed as Minister in August.

However, journalists say the move is aimed at targeting journalists and threatening the media.

The decision to take legal measures against the Minister was unanimously reached in a meeting after the Minister failed to reach a dialogue on Tuesday with representatives of the journalists nominated early this week to dialogue with the minister. (READ: South Sudan Editors Agree On Dialogue With Information Ministry

“We cannot reach on any dialogue with the Minister,” veteran South Sudanese Journalist and Editor in Chief of The Juba Monitor newspaper head of the Committee that met the Minister, Alfred Taban said.

The meeting included the Editor in Chief of the Citizen newspaper and television, Nhial Bol.

After deliberating on the negative response by the Minister to the Committee, journalists strategized several resolutions including ensuring summoning the Minister to the parliament for questioning over his decision described as “illegal” since his act is not based on any legal framework.

Journalists want the minister to be summoned to the parliament for questioning on the legal framework he is using to issue his directives to the journalists.

They also agreed not to register with the Ministry until he issued an official communication.

Journalists also threatened to boycott reporting on all government events and taking other measures should the Minister dare interfere with any journalistic work or media agency.

The saga between the Minister and the journalists is the first of its kind in the country since the establishment of the then Southern Sudan government in 2005.

Civil society activists have condemned the move and said it is a full interference with the democratic governance in the country.

Edmond Yakani, Executive Coordinator of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) said the Ministers move is uncalled for.

South Sudan dropped 13 places in the Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index – to 124th out of 179 countries ranked – due to the heavy handedness by the security forces in dealing with journalists, and after the murder of Isaiah Abraham, a well-known political commentator in December 2012.

The national parliament is debating media laws and it is expected that the new laws will improve conditions for journalists in the new nation once signed by the president.

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