South Sudan has dropped one step backward in this year’s World Press Freedom Index ranking, a report by Reporters Without Borders (RFS) has revealed.
South Sudan ranks number 139 out of 180 countries in the annual press freedom index released this week, dropping a place from last year’s ranking of 138.
RSF said journalism was at least partly blocked in nearly three-quarters of the 180 countries it surveyed.
Its World Press Freedom Index found 73 countries “totally blocked or seriously impeded” journalism, while it was “constrained” in 59 others, adding that many governments had used the pandemic to worsen repression.
Other regional countries—Ethiopia ranks 101 while Kenya follows at number 102.
Tanzania and Uganda rank 124 and 125 respectively.
Norway maintains its ranking as number one for the fifth year in a row, while the worst country is now Eritrea.
RSF says journalists and media houses in South Sudan continue to exercise self-censorship following a spate of harassment, arrests, and expulsion in the last two years by the country’s authorities.
It cited the expulsion of two foreign journalists in 2019 and 2018, and the shutdown of the BBC’s local relays and radio Miraya in 2018. The two broadcasters have since been restored on air.
Reporters Without Borders reveals that several journalists have over the last two years sought refuge outside South Sudan due to lack of media freedoms.
“Close surveillance and intimidation are also part of the regime’s predatory methods, and security agents often go directly to printing presses to censor content,” the report said.
To escape the harassment, it said, some journalists have preferred to flee the country or just close their publications.
RSF noted that with at least ten journalists killed since 2014, the years of fighting have weakened the media as they are forced by the government not to cover issues linked to the conflict, making the media very sparing in their reporting on important developments.
However, the signing of the revitalized peace agreement has led to a reduction in the fighting, and no journalist has been killed since 2017, according to RSF.
The government has often insisted it accords freedom of the press in South Sudan.