ARTICLE 19 welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of South Sudan. This submission focuses on its compliance with obligations under international human rights law to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression and information, with a focus on the legal framework and impunity for attacks on journalists.
During the first UPR cycle, the delegation of South Sudan only noted two recommendations on freedom of expression:
- Draft their Constitution in an inclusive process with the participation of civil society, women and minorities. Also, ensure that the new Constitution includes a catalogue of human rights, in particular the freedom of speech and assembly, and take the multi-ethnic and multi-religious background of their population into account (Austria)
- Respect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly by allowing human rights defenders, political dissidents and journalists to express their views freely in line with international human rights law (United Kingdom)
ARTICLE 19 observes that little progress has been made to protect freedom of expression in South Sudan. Authorities, especially the National Security Service (NSS) continue to harass, intimidate, and arbitrarily detain journalists. As a result, freedom of expression has been increasingly eroded in South Sudan since independence in 2011, a situation which escalated following the outbreak of internal armed conflict in mid-December 2013.
We welcome that South Sudan is among the five countries that are implementing the UN Action Plan on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity following the approval of the same by the UN General Assembly in 2012 . The implementation of the UN Action Plan includes building capacity and identifying and implementing mechanisms that can provide safety and protection to journalists and media workers in countries marked by conflict and organised violence. Country interventions envisaged under the UN Plan of Action include the development of a national approach and related strategic interventions to safety and legal protection.
Journalists working in South Sudan continue to face threats and attacks and credible investigations are rarely carried out to hold perpetrators accountable. Accordingly, freedom of expression in South Sudan is facing one of its most dangerous periods in the country’s short history. The existing media related laws have not improved matters and state agencies, especially security agencies regularly violate journalists’ rights, on the pretext of national security.