The South Sudan media landscape faces challenges caused majorly by the horrors of the war. Government censorship, minimal infrastructure development, low levels of Internet penetration and literacy are among the top factors hampering a fast growth and the development of the media sector. It’s also important to note that media are facing significant financial burdens, caused by heavy operational costs and exacerbated by a sharp surge of fuel prices and printing costs. The lack of advertising revenue through traditional methods, amid rising popularity in social media marketing, has forced many media to depend heavily on external funding from diplomatic corps, international non-governmental organisations and UN agencies in order to survive.
Many South Sudanese, however, continue to rely heavily on mass media for information critical to decision making, especially at times of conflict. The trust level placed on media is significantly higher than in many countries in the eastern and Horn of Africa region. In a country where about 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas, media, especially, radio have become a crucial tool for information access, education and cohesion in the social fabric.
New media legislation and the constitutional provision which uphold the role of vibrant media and free press as important in the country’s growth and development, have the potential to positively change the media landscape. However, for these freedoms to be achieved, South Sudan needs to uphold and practice its own laws, something which has not been effectively adhered to by both state and non-state authorities. The fragmented political structure has made it difficult for authorities to enforce the rule of law and deliver government services across the country. Yet, many of the positive changes expected require the return of peace and the respect and upholding of the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and free press.