By Tor Madira Machier
With the disappearance of some websites from South Sudan’s radars on Monday, the news exaggerates fears of government’s advance on media strongholds in the country. What is so sad regarding this government crackdown is that, although there is limited internet access in the country, most South Sudanese citizens (both in IDPs UN-manned camps and in their homes) do not have the capacity to spend a daily amount of 150 South Sudanese pounds on News Papers circulated daily in Juba. Instead, they resort to collecting information about the country from online news outlets with the use of the country’s limited internet. Now, with government’s crackdown on online news outlets like Radio Tamazuj, Sudan Tribune, Nyamilepedia and the PaanLuel Wel, South Sudanese are going, without doubts, to face hindrances to access information.
Although there are some online news outlets, Sudan Tribune, Radio Tamazuj, and Nyamilepedia are the most visited South Sudanese news sites both at home and abroad according to some reports. With the shutdown, few, especially those who will be able to buy newspapers, would have access to what is going on around them, but with limited information, because most papers in Juba and other parts of South Sudan are government monitored and have to report what favour the government.
The government’s anti-press activities are not surprising both to the South Sudanese and to the press. With the onset of the South Sudanese civil war in December 2013, most journalists are continuously harassed, expelled from the country, detained, or even killed by the government’s unknown gunmen. In early this year, South Sudan’s media authority whose members are appointed by the South Sudanese president issued an order banning the Qatari based Aljazeera Network’s Bureau in Juba from reporting, or covering any issue related to South Sudan. The ban followed an Aljazeera report on an escalating fighting between government and opposition forces in Kajo-Kaji county of Central Equatoria State on which the network reported the government facing setbacks in a number of battles in the area. This explains that the government favours a friendly media, in which what please it is reported. But where there is no truth, there is no development. The government must realise mistakes it committed yesterday so as to take care of what it is doing tomorrow.
Although the government might see this as a war between it and the media, of course, it is a war between the government and the people of South Sudan. With the closure, the messenger will not do his job and the South Sudanese citizen will not have access to the relevant information he deserves to know about the situation of his country on daily basis.
If the government in Juba believe that the ban affects those with a positive view of the South Sudan opposition and negative view of the South Sudanese government, then the government is wrong. Without exceptions, the negative effect of the move includes people with a positive view of the South Sudan’s government.
The journalists, I believe, won’t surrender and the government is ready to fight an indefinite war. That’s why one would ask himself a question such as; why the government mind is opening several war fronts with the armed opposition, the South Sudan citizens, the South Sudanese and the international media?
The government of South Sudan should free the media landscape and leave it alone.
Tor Madira Machier is a South Sudanese columnist living in Cairo, Egypt he can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or tormchier.bogspot.com