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JUBA - 15 Feb 2023

‘Gagging the press, restricting free expression will radicalize citizens'- Yakani warns gov't

Edmund Yakani, CEPO Executive Director
Edmund Yakani, CEPO Executive Director

The executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) has put the Government of South Sudan on notice that threatening journalists, muzzling the media, and limiting freedom of expression will radicalize citizens against the regime.

According to Edmund Yakani, since the kidnap in Nairobi and alleged repatriation to Juba of Morris Mabior, a rights activist who was seeking asylum in Kenya since 2021, multiple journalists have been getting death threats.

“Recently, when journalists started reporting about human rights issues and the kidnapping of the activist Morris Mabior in Nairobi among other abuses, journalists have been receiving threats some of which are death threats,” Yakani charged. “Some of them are acts of interference in the work of journalists and media houses. For example, Sudans Post’s Facebook page has recently been hacked and interfered with to a level that it is shut down.”

He added: “We are also aware that some journalists are receiving death threats through phone calls which for me is very bad and is a contradiction of certain declarations that were recently made in the country.”

Yakani cited resolution number 14 of the recently concluded Governors’ Forum which urged all leaders at all levels to ensure that constructive criticism, media freedoms, and freedom of expression are not stifled.

“As the World and South Sudan celebrate World Radio Day (WRD), and as we are aware that radio plays a very instrumental role in our lives by providing, accurate information which is a very important factor in nurturing peace and stability in society, I would like to take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the political leadership, in particular President Salva Kiir, that journalists play a very important role in our lives,” he counseled. “Also, when the during the president end of year speech, he declared 2023 a year of reconciliation, forgiveness, and development. We cannot forgive if we cannot reconcile and embrace the fundamental freedoms.”

“We cannot reconcile when we threaten journalists and media houses when they are doing their noble work of providing accurate information that builds peace and stability,” Yakani added. “This is because if we deny people information and freedom of expression, we are radicalizing them against the state.”

He urged President Kiir alert cabinet members in their next meeting that the various authorities in the country that interference with the media and threatening journalists is unacceptable.

“There is a need to ensure freedom of expression and that journalists and a free media are allowed to do their work without fear and threats,” Yakani said.