By Julius N. Uma
May 18, 2010 (JUBA) — The media, better known as the forth estate of government, has been challenged to play leading roles in cases of exposing human rights violations in society.
While briefing journalists on South Sudan’s human rights situation yesterday, Dr. Anei Adik Arop, a Commissioner at Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) said much as the media has an obligation to respect the fundamental rights of individuals, it can still contribute to political, economic and social development in ways consistent with local and internationally-agreed upon standards.
"Journalists need to understand issues crucial to all segments of the population and play their part in informing the public about the challenges facing the society," Dr. Arop remarked.
The Commissioner, however, challenged the media to provide fair and balanced coverage of issues based on factual and in-depth research.
On the impartiality of SSHRC, an independent body established under article 149 of the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan, Dr. Arop reiterated the institution’s mandate to monitor the Bill of Rights enshrined within the constitution.
According to the Commissioner, the human rights body strives to monitor as well as investigate complaints made by persons against any violations of human rights, make recommendations and ensure that appropriate actions are taken.
Over the past few months, the reputation of SSHRC has been put in doubt; with many accusing the human rights body of being a mere barking dog that simply advances government agenda.
During the run-up to last month’s general election, for instance, several cases of harassment and intimidation of voters’ and some independent cases were reported, yet the South-based human rights body remained tight-lipped on the matter.
The worst affected areas were Western Equatoria State, Unity State and parts of Jonglei, where human rights activists accused state agents of being the major perpetuators of the human right violations.
The Commission, according to Dr. Arop, documented all these various cases, and that a detailed report was in the offing. He however did not hint on when the long-awaited report would be made public.