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South Sudan's press freedom at risk: Media rights group

Heavy-handed security, self-censorship, and non-existence of legal protection represent huge barriers for South Sudanese journalists who encountered several rights violations in the world's newest nation

AFP , Tuesday 3 Jul 2012
South Sudan celebrates independence in July 2011. (Photo: Reuters)
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Press freedom in the world's newest nation South Sudan risks becoming as restricted as it is in arch-rival Sudan, from whom the South split last year after years of repression, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday.

With heavy-handed security, self-censorship and lack of legal protection, South Sudanese journalists commonly face "violence and intimidation" including detention and beatings, the press rights group said.   

South Sudan split from the north on July 9 last year after decades of civil war against Khartoum. However, Juba's rebel army turned government "has yet to embark on a road to civil liberties," the RSF report read.

"Everything still needs to be built or rebuilt. This includes freedom of information," it added. Parliament has yet to pass long-delayed media laws that would protect journalists, in a country with poor literacy rates, scant training for media and little access to information.

"South Sudan is not currently prey to concerted and systematic harassment of its media," the report said. "But there has been a disturbing accumulation of incidents and isolated acts of repression or intimidation that end up undermining the climate in which journalists and media operate," it added.

In a highly politicised and militarised society, journalists are often afraid to criticize the government and warned not to cover certain sensitive subjects such as the army, RSF said.

RSF places South Sudan 111 out of 179 countries in its annual press freedom index, while Sudan is ranked at 170.


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