Legal analysis

South Sudan: Broadcasting Corporation Bill

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ARTICLE 19

03 Oct 2012

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In October 2012, ARTICLE 19 analysed the Draft the Broadcasting Corporation Bill, 2012 (No. 53, “Draft Bill”) which envisages the creation of a national public service broadcaster, the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (“SSBC”). The Draft Bill was introduced to the South Sudan’s Council of Ministers in March 2012, as a part of a package of three media-related bills (alongside with the Draft Media Authority Bill (No. 52) and the Draft Right to Access Information Bill (No. 54)). These three laws shall be eventually submitted for an adoption by the National Legislative Assembly.

On the outset of this analysis, ARTICLE 19 is pleased to note that the Draft Bill is largely based on a proposal presented by us to the then southern Minister of Information in March 2006. Our earlier proposal was based in turn on the Model Public Service Broadcasting Law published by ARTICLE 19 in 2005, which seeks to encapsulate international best practice in a legislative format. Accordingly, we broadly welcome the Bill, which would translate much of this best practice into law in South Sudan. 

Unfortunately, our assessment of the Draft Bill shows that it  significantly differs from both, our 2006 proposal and from international standards in this area. In particular, we are concern that the biggest changes introduced relate to the process for appointing and dismissing members of the Board of Directors of SSBC, and that their effect is to place the broadcaster under the control of the President and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, rather than the National Legislative Assembly. A strong guarantee of independence from the executive branch is one of the key pillars of a democratic public service broadcasting law. With this pillar now taken from under the Draft Bill, it is very questionable whether the SSBC will be able to truly deliver on its otherwise well-defined mandate to serve the public – rather than the government.

ARTICLE 19 therefore recommends that the Draft Bill is reviewed for its compliance with international standards and in the light of our earlier proposal that fully incorporated these standards.

Overview of Recommendations:

  • The Broadcasting Corporation Bill should state, either in the preamble or in Section 3, that all provisions must be interpreted in conformity with the guarantee of freedom of expression in Section 24 of the Transitional Constitution.
  • Consideration should be given to referring to international guarantees of freedom of expression too.
  • The Broadcasting Corporation Bill should expressly guarantee SSBC’s independence from the executive and should prohibit all attempts to influence the members or staff of SSBC in the discharge of their duties, or to interfere with the activities of SSBC, except as specifically provided for by law.
  • Members of the Board of SSBC should not be selected and dismissed by the President, but by a two-thirds majority vote of the National Legislative Assembly. Any role for the President should be purely ceremonial.
  • The nominations process should be open and the selection should be made through public hearings, after the public has been given an opportunity to comment.
  • Persons who are employed in the civil service or any other branch of government should be ineligible for appointment to the Board.
  • Consideration should be given to extending the term of Board members to six years.
  • The Managing Director of SSBC should be selected by the Board with no involvement of the Government.
  • A Board member who is removed should be guaranteed the right to appeal this decision in court.
  • The annual report drawn up by the Board should be addressed exclusively to the National Legislative Assembly and the public.
  • SSBC should be able to apply directly to the National Legislative Assembly for funding, rather than through the Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
  • The remuneration of Board members should be set by the National Legislative Assembly rather than the Council of Ministers.

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