December 29, 2013 (JUBA) – A civil society activist has complained that South Sudan’s media is finding it difficult to report in a balanced and accurate manner on the ongoing political crisis in the country.
- South Sudan army soldiers hold their weapons as they ride on a truck in Bor, 180 km (108 miles) northwest from capital Juba December 25, 2013 (REUTERS/James Akena)
Speaking in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday, an executive member of a civil society coalition who did not want to be named for safety reasons said the media is not adequately reporting alternative views that diverge from the government position.
“The government says it was an aborted coup and should be reported as such. Of course there are people with different opinions about what happened but they don’t say it in the media,’’ said the source.
Following the outbreak of fighting between rival factions with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) two weeks ago, president Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup to topple his government. Machar denies the accusations.
The civil society source said the South Sudanese media is afraid of contradicting the government position.
‘‘Media personnel are also cautious and afraid to talk about issues that would anger the government and bring them into the loggerhead [with government] again".
Even before the current political crisis in the country broke out, South Sudan journalists were already having an acrimonious relationship with the government following their rejection of a directive by the information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, to register with the government.
But in response to criticism of the un-conducive environment in the country for independent journalism, Interior minister Aleu Ayeny Aleu said South Sudan is a ‘‘democratic country’’ with freedom of the media and expression.
“We are a democratic country. Everyone is entitled to their opinion provided what they say does not incite violence, hatred and all those bad things which discourage love and unity of our people, ‘’Aleu said on Sunday.
"So why does anyone feel threatened? If you have not said anything dangerous to the state, against law and people of this country, why should they fear to talk if they know about what happened,’’ wondered the Interior Minister.
But an independent journalist who also did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal said it has been difficult reaching and getting to people with different opinions from those of government.
“The focus now is how to resolve this crisis. Politicians are avoiding narratives of what happened. They are saying let’s not scratch the wounds. So media is focusing on what is being said by the politicians. But of course there are people with different opinions,” the journalists said .