By Julius N. Uma
August 20, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s draft media law, currently before the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), should be subjected to extensive consultation to ensure the legislation is consistent with international standards, Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
Bekele, who spoke to Sudan Tribune last week, said the long-awaited media law, if passed, should strongly adhere to the universally accepted principles that relate to freedom of expression and press freedom.
“We understand that there was a draft [media] law in the making. We hope there will be an extensive consultation on new laws and policies that will also be consistent with international standards, particularly the one relating to freedom of expression and press freedom,” he said.
In its July report, Reporters Without Borders stated that since secession South Sudan is “at a crossroads, wondering whether to behave differntly from Khartoum or give way to repressive instincts”.
The new nation ranks 111 out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 press freedom index.
Bekele said it was important for the young nation, despite its “complex” challenges, to invest in building the rule of law and other relevant institutions.
“Investing in the rule of law is an important pillar for building a democratic nation,” Bekele told Sudan Tribune.
A recent report, released by HRW deplored the poor state of prisoners in South Sudan and unlawful detentions.
“The experience of those in detention in South Sudan reveals serious flaws in the emerging justice system,” Bekele says in the report.
“South Sudan is a new country and badly needs an effective justice system that upholds human rights and dignity. It is a fundamental building block for establishing rule of law and accountability,” he added.
The report also calls for urgent actions in resolving these challenges, with a particular emphasis on improving the rule of law, which it considers a key pillar in nation-building.
South Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar, while speaking during the launch of the report, acknowledged the poor state of the country’s prisons, but reiterated his government’s commitment to improving the situation.