May 4, 2016 / By Jok P Mayom, Gurtong
South Sudan on Tuesday joined the rest of the world in marking the World Press Freedom Day under the theme “Access to information and fundamental freedoms” with calls to protect journalists.
The celebration held at Nyakuron Cultural Centre and attended by media houses in Juba was organized by the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with support from Internews amongst other partners.
Mr. Salah Khaled, UNESCO Country Representative said, “….We use this occasion to take stock of the challenges facing the media and remind the decision makers of the fundamental principles of press freedom and to evaluate press freedom in our members States.”
“We also use this day as a reminder to governments of the needs to respect their commitment to press freedom and their constitutional role to protect all the citizens including journalists” Khaled said.
Mr. Eugene Owusu, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nation Secretary General and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan said press freedom is a share value amongst the community of nations including South Sudan.
“…For South Sudan; its government and people, the opportunity to optimize the fruits of this country’s hard won independence will not be fully achieved, if liberty and freedom do not also extend to the media” said Owusu.
Mr. Oliver Modi Philip, Union of Journalists (UJOSS)’s Chairperson said, “We are commemorating the day in order to remind ourselves about the past; what the media has done, how far the media has been in the Republic of South Sudan.”
“…….Without the media we cannot be able to; exercise and really get the good result of our freedom that we have, advanced the level of development, be heard in the world” Modi said.
With support from UNESCO, Khaled said, 6 South Sudanese journalists, 3 females and 3males attended the global celebration in Helsinki, Finland.
Journalists complain of harassment, detention, torture and arrest by the security apparatus which they said should be looked at for their safety and to work in friendly environment.
“We have initiative and will continue working with the South Sudan National Police Services with training programmes about the role of media” UNESCO head said.
South Sudan has dropped 15 places in the latest World Press Freedom index. The annual ranking done by Reporters without Borders places South Sudan in position 140, out of 180 countries ranked.
The 2015 ranking placed South Sudan in position 125 among 179 countries.
The latest report says the already fragile situation of journalists in the country has been worsened by the civil war.
Every year, 3rd May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Over 100 national celebrations take place each year to commemorate this day. UNESCO leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global thematic and organizing the main event in different parts of world every year.
The international day was proclaimed by the United Nation General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
This year, World Press Freedom day coincides with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek declaration of press freedom principles which calls for free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide.