By Ngor Arol Garang
May 4, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s media groups on Friday called for participatory discussions on the country’s media law, a day after marking the country’s first World Press Freedom day as an independent nation in the capital Juba.
Despite being self-governing since 2005 South Sudan has not passed a media law, leaving many editors and journalists unclear of their rights. Harassment of the press and high fines if journalists and newspaper owners are taken to court of been criticised by press freedom groups.
John A. Daniel, an independent journalist told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the day was celebrated "even though the [long-awaited media] law has not been passed."
He called "responsible journalism and censorship of hate speeches."
James Chok, a reporter with the Southern Eye, in a public discussion at South Sudan Hotel on Friday, observed that the media has a crucial role in society.
"Journalists are agents of change. We are instrumental in shaping the views of people as well as the sense of direction of the society", says Chok hours after returning from covering Malakal in Upper Nile State.
He, however, warned that ”abuse of the pen or the microphone is tantamount to not only self-destruction but destruction of society as a whole. This is why professionalism is an underlying word in the line of duty of journalism. Responsible reporting should become and always continue to be the watchword of our reporters”.
He adds that the role of journalists in society goes far beyond informing and entertaining. The media should not be used to trade derogatory remarks, express personal grievances, reporting things that are not in the public interest or that have not been properly verified, he said.
Susan Juma, a journalist with the Central Equatoria State ministry of information called for a responsible journalism. "We must be self censored to show responsibility that goes with professionalism," argued Ms. Juma
“Every journalist must therefore commit him/herself to ensuring that before rushing to the press; his/her story is credible, fit for public consumption and not just published for publishing’s sake," she said.
“It takes a great deal of effort, conscience and conviction for people to deliver responsibly in their work. As journalists we are required to be role models and be the mirror of society. We should therefore be responsible at all times in the execution of our work”, she explained.