Juba — The order by the ministry of Information and Broadcasting to register all media houses and freelancer journalists operating in South Sudan has been 'ultimately misinterpreted', Hon. Micheal Makuei has said.
In a press briefing on Friday, Hon. Makuei, said the objective of the registration exercise is to "organize and regulate the media as opposed to what has been perceived as 'a crack down on freedom of expression'.
Secondly as revenue generating entity, the registration process Hon. Makuei said, ought to ensure that media houses stand up to their obligation of paying taxes as required by law. "There is no where in the World where you get a media house or a journalist operating without being registered. It is only in South Sudan that such a thing is happening", Hon Makuei who is also the official government Spokesman said.
"In order for the ministry to come in and protect 'journalist X and Y' against any harassed or arrested, they [journalists] need to first register with the us, There is no way we will just go out there to protect whoever claims to be a journalist," Hon. Makuei stressed.
Since 2006, the media houses in the country have been operating without being organized and regulated, the minister noted. "The fact that a mistake has been committed does not mean that it must not be corrected. The way my directive was understood, the way it was interpreted and passed to the public was distorted", Hon. Makuei remarked.
The minister called for professionalism in what is commonly referred to as the 'third arm of the government'. "I always insist the media must be responsible, accountable and transparent, Responsible in the sense that you report exactly what happened, don't deviate and make misleading statements and reports", Makuei urged.
Majority of the media houses, print, broadcasting and online news agencies have already adhered to the exercise. He said. Hon. Makuei however he was quick to say that a good number of media houses exist only by name. They are not operational and are not paying taxes, he said adding that the government will deregistered such companies should they fail operate.
He told the media houses that are resisting his directive to choose between waiting for the establishment of the media Authority of register with the ministry which in the absence of the authority is the responsible of regulating the press.
The UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Toby Lancer on Thursday called on journalists to be fair and professional in their day to day reporting. He said it is important for Journalists to double-check their sources when writing or broadcasting on the radios.
"Do not just pick up some rumor on the streets and belief its true. It is important that the media is professional and contributes to the development of the country. Do not write stories or share things that will contribute to or incite violence", Lancer said while addressing media houses in a 'meet and greet' organized by the United Nations Communications Group. He underlined UN's commitment to upholding freedom of the press in South Sudan.