Roundtable brings together southern media and security services

13 Jun 2011

Roundtable brings together southern media and security services

10 June 2011 - Leading members of the news media profession and senior officials of various Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) security services concluded a two-day roundtable conference today in the regional capital of Juba.

Hosted by the GoSS Ministry of Information, discussions sought to improve relations between media outlets and state security organs, which have periodically come under strain over the past six years since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The UNMIS Public Information Office helped with organization of the event, while the regional office of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) provided the funding for the conference.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, UNMIS Principal Civil Affairs Officer Sylvia Fletcher said that freedom of information was a vital building block for political freedom and democracy.

Participants acknowledged that the work of media and government security services is important to democratic transformation of the forthcoming Republic of South Sudan. They informally agreed to change their approaches towards fulfillment of their duties and to respect each other.

"The informal understanding of the two groups assembled here is not only critical for the celebration of 9 July, but beyond July," said Ms. Fletcher.

The roundtable opened on the morning of 9 June with a keynote address from the GoSS Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

"We have worked very hard to make this happen so that the media and the security operatives can sit around the table to share our challenges... (and) to promote freedom of press in the yet to be born new Republic of South Sudan," he said.

Among those present at the opening of the conference were UNMIS Public Information Office Chief Hua Jiang, UNDP Head of Office in Southern Sudan Joe Feeney and Hakim Moi, Executive Director of the Association for Media Development in Southern Sudan (AMDISS).

"It is a great meeting as we are moving closer to the independence of South Sudan," Mr. Feeney said. "There are enormous expectations from the people of South Sudan and the world at large."

The meeting was held at a time when Sudan's 10 southern states are entering the final countdown to the proclamation of a sovereign republic on 9 July.

However, three long-pending media bills have yet to be passed by the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly.

AMDISS chairperson Jacob Akol compared current media operations in the absence of such laws to "playing football without guidelines", and urged the Southern Sudanese parliament to approve the media legislation soon.