The Access to Information and Media Authority bills were passed under the leadership of the National Assembly Speaker James Wani Igga. The Media Broadcasting Bill was already passed last month.
South Sudan poses a challenging media environment for its journalists, who hope the passed bills will improve their working conditions.
In her speech during the fourth reading of the bills, Joy Kwaje Eluzai, the Chairperson of the Information, Telecommunication and Culture Committee, said the legislation marks another step in South Sudan’s strive for democracy.
This is a very big milestone in our own journey towards democratisation.”
The passing brings us out from the thinking that our country does not have freedom of speech. I would like to say this is a very big milestone in our own journey towards democratisation,” Kwaje said.
We are very happy that we have now passed the media law. This is going to be the gift for the people of South Sudan,” she added in a later interview.
Before the bills were passed the parliamentarians had a heated debate. They (the journalists) either conform to the law or face it. Anyway, what is so special with them,” Michael Makwei the South Sudan Minister of Parliamentary Affairs said during the session.
Why do we need to protect the journalists if they will write things that defame people,” Ajang Bior, member of an opposition party, commented during the debate.
Why do we need to protect the journalists if they will write things that defame people.” Journalists welcomed the legislations saying the bills allow all journalists in the country to work in the most professional way, adding that the bills define the so far unclear boundaries of the media fraternity.
Robert Ohio, a journalist with Miraya FM, commented: I appreciate it. It becomes now a cover coat where actually we can perform our duty as needed and well regulated according to the profession of journalists.”
The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) was a driving force behind the passing of the bills. Hakim Moi, a member of AMDISS, said most of the clauses drafted by AMDISS were passed in the bills -- as expected.
Also watch the interview with Joy Kwaje Eluzai:
‘We have very great hopes for the media in South Sudan’
According to Moi the bills give journalists the possibility to investigate issues of public interest, as they have now the right to request information important for the public to make informed decisions.
However, he also warned that much effort is still needed to create public awareness and to make people understand the bills.
This is still a very early day. It is one thing to pass the law and it’s another thing to implement it. Journalists may continue to be harassed and intimidated until the law is understood by the executive and the public,” Moi said in an interview with The Niles.
It’s a great step forward in a right direction.”
Hakim Moi also expressed his gratitude to the parliament, stressing that all the bodies established under the South Sudan Cooperation are public bodies and are accountable to the assembly and their removal and vetting is done through the assembly”.
US Ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page said the passing of the bills is an important achievement. It’s a great step forward in a right direction because that means that the press and journalists will have protection […] and freedoms that are guaranteed through domestic legislation.”