Accountability systems

Pursuant to the Media Authority Act, complaints filed against media entities are treated as civil offences and subject to review and investigation by the Press and Broadcast Complaints Council and the Media Appeals Board. The Press and Broadcast Complaints Council is mandated to impose administrative sanctions envisaged in Article 29 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. However, in cases “where malicious intent or recklessness is shown and damage is serious”, offenders will be subjected to a prison term of up to five years by a competent court.

Specific provisions in the Media Authority Act defining hate speech and incitement of violence are generally in compliance with the international human rights standards. For example, Article 29-2 requires that a nexus must be established between the words and an actual or probable act of violence or discrimination. This is to avoid, for example, limitations on the use of offensive or insulting language under the pretext of prohibiting hate speech, according to the 2016 OHCHR report on Rights to opinion and expression.

The report further claims, the National Security Service Act (2014) granted the South Sudanese National Security Agent sweeping powers with respect to surveillance, arrest and detention in situations where the national interest could be threatened. It also allowed security agents to arrest individuals without a warrant. This provision has been used against journalists and other individuals for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression. Moreover, while the NSS Act requires that individuals arrested and detained by the NSS be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours, in practice, people are frequently held without any access to the court system.