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In S. Sudan, UN Focuses on Jonglei, not Unity & Lakes Firings, Silencing of Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 8, updated -- The UN had its South Sudan envoy Hilde Johnson go silent during Monday's Security Council session, so that what she said could not be heard by the public.

 After the resulting consultations, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo if the firing of the governors of Lakes and Unity State had been discussed.

  No, Ambassador DiCarlo answer, no specifically. But she said SRSG Johnson had spoken about “developing institutions.” That's certainly important, the day before South Sudan's second anniversary of independence from Sudan. But does the UN best serve it with an envoy so closely aligned with the government?

  What has been said, for example, about the closure and now censoring of Good News Radio in Lakes State? Ambassador DiCarlo said that did not come up either; later this month the US will hold a Council session on protection of journalists, What about in South Sudan?

  It's not just Hilde Johnson. The Free UN Coalition for Access, much concerned about the UN's waning commitment to freedom of speech and of the press, has asked humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer what about Good News Radio, in response to his upbeat view of the UN's Radio Miraya. No response. Maybe after South Sudan's second birthday party?

  The UN's radio stations claim to be independent. But as FUNCA has shown, Radio Okapi only covered the Congo sanctions report exclusively put online by Inner City Press -- and covered and credited by BBC and Bloomberg News -- after the DRC government criticized it.

  And the UN's MinustahFM in Haiti has yet to cover Ban Ki-moon's letter to Congress about denying cholera claims.

  How can this UN speak for free press when it doesn't practice it, and threatens to suspend or withdraw accreditation for it even in UN Headquarters? Watch this site.

Updated with US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: You mentioned Jonglei, but I wanted to know if whether--these issues of the governors of Lakes State and Unity State will be relieved of their function. Some people are saying it’s kind of a sour note in terms of the second birthday coming up. And also some press freedom issues. Something called Sudanese Radio that was taken off the air for criticizing the government and any issue of sort of the government’s own limitation of allowing elected officials to remain in governorships and freedom of press come up?

Ambassador DiCarlo: That issue was not raised by the SRSG. She did raise a number of issues, however, about the need to help develop institutions, to work with the South Sudanese in this regard—to develop capacity. We spoke a great deal about Jonglei – obviously, Jonglei State – and the need to protect civilians.

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