By Peter Reat Gatkuoth Both
April 2, 2012 (SSNA) — There is no doubt that most citizens in South Sudan will falls into unsafe categories in the culture in which privacy, copyright and publicity is not regulated and acknowledged as a basic barrier to individuals’ safety.
Early on Monday, March 11-17/2013, the Southern Eye Newspapers Agency has published an article (vol. 5, issue 10) entitled “Army begins fighting against Yau Yau” in Jonglei State, South Sudan. The article was a press release and a public note to all audiences and travelers about the ongoing activities of insecurity in Jonglei State. The newspaper’s writer and editors had decided to pick my picture elsewhere and published it as the picture of David Yau Yau (the Jonglei State Rebel leader). The article was read world wide and many people brought such a newspaper to East African countries, Europe, North America and Far East as travellers buy the newspapers in the airport while transitioning through the Airport.
The article caught me with great surprise when my colleague and long time friend informed me about the article, being circulated around South Sudan, East Africa and through different areas. African security personnel sometimes rely mostly on image than the name displayed in the identification document because they knew it well that someone could easily change the name and rename himself/herself. The name does not matter but picture does matter in security system. On the other hand, East Africa security system is tied and therefore, it would be difficult for me to dispute this issue if I have been capture in East African nations. If these local journalist would not be guided by the laws that governing the country’s system of publications and news system, then it is probably worth saying that our life will be marked with too many colors of trouble because local journalists, within us will always choose to write and pick up any pictures they wanted to publish. Be it picture of ministers, officials or picture of local community members. The differences of the people they are victimizing through the media would not matter in the hand of Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia security, provide that they see the image of the most wanted man. They will easily torture and victimize ordinary citizens that the local journalists put on media radar.
I am very speechless in this regard and I thought that this newspaper Agency had an intentional plan to inflict a great damage to my life, by putting my own image as the image of the most wanted Rebel Leader (David Yau Yau). In fact, I am originally from Jonglei State, and one of the known citizens in that particular state; however, being a citizen of Jonglei State or Greater Upper Nile region would not permit the Newspaper Agency to publish my picture as the picture of the Murle rebel. David Yau Yau is badly needed in the world today by law enforcement agencies, like all criminals. It’s extremely dangerous that an ordinary citizen’s picture should be published without his consent and linked his image to the image of the most wanted man who has a high record of human right violation and mass slaughtering of the innocent citizens in the country.[Above] is my picture on the left side corner below, published and read worldwide. (Refer to the picture above).
I believe my colleagues, friends and those whom I share life with, through the time of struggle, will agree with me that this picture is my picture before my own parents have step in and commend on the issue at hand. The picture that was put here was taken in spring of 2009 in Edmonton, Canada and I believe I would not be blind enough not to recognize my own picture though I am getting old.
The Rebel leader that I was linked up with, is the most wanted man and he is indeed in the list of the most wanted regional criminals, awaiting for justice while on run. He has been kidnapping children, killing innocent people on roads, and has launched many attacks to the villages where I lost many relatives and community members in the attacks he has been conducting and launching against the Jonglei civilians. We are still mourning until these days for the death of our brothers and sisters who were slaughtered on their ways to Sobat River cattle camp area by David Yau Yau and his Murle militia forces just last two months ago.
Perhaps, these Southern Eye newspapers’ journalists are not aware about code of ethic and legal consequences of using an unauthorized picture of ordinary citizen who does not hold any public post though they had enlisted Minister Hon. Gier Chuang Aluong as the Chairman board of directors. In my view, I thought that this newspaper would have been one of the best newspaper agencies, given to the fact that Hon. Gier Chuang Aloung is a chairman board of directors and trustee. It put me into dilemma by then, not to throw a dust on their faces because the newspaper agency seem to be monitored and guided by minister who hold public government post and been enlisted as the chairman board of directors. My assumption is that the chairman board of directors must be knowledgeable about the privacy, publicity and copyright laws. People thought that this newspaper agency might have been well informed about the journalism code of ethic and the regulation governing the press and publications.
The reasons why many countries implemented the policy of picture identification, and encouraging anyone to have a picture ID even in the rural society is because of the security purpose; for if all people have an IDs without pictures on the IDs, there would have been a lot of crises because people may have share and exchange IDs. If the state does not restrict or put a laws that regulate the media system, then there is no doubt that most citizens in South Sudan will falls into unsafe categories in the culture in which privacy, copyright and publicity is not regulated and acknowledged as a basic barrier to individuals’ safety.
Imagine for instant, if someone’s picture has been published as a picture of Osama Bin Laden, would that person travels in the world regardless of the names in the ID? Would she/he passes through Airport where security officers monitor criminals and people whose their names were identified as criminals by the security agency worldwide? I believe that many of you may have agree with me that Since the independent day, Journalists in Juba have been writing in the shadow of injustice, yet the state authority had never bring any legal case against the publishers. There has been too many errors on many newspapers and few individuals’ image are intentionally damaged world wide by some state news agency, operating in Juba since 2010.
I thought that the rights of privacy, copyright and publicity are very important in the laws that govern the journalism code of ethic and press in South Sudan. This is simply because an unauthorized uses of a person’s identity in order to create a false impression and endorsement is danger and risky for the safety of the people since the world rely on images shown on newspapers or in television reports. This is very important in Journalism training because most of the states’ authorities usually do not like the images/pictures of the people to be plastered all over the Internet or on newspapers without their consent. And this is due to the reasons of public safety and privacy.
The Juba Southern eye newspapers agency had violated the law of publicity, copyright and privacy and decided to publish my picture as the picture of the Jonglei State rebel Leader (David Yau Yau) to destroy my image; an intention I see as to risky my life and my safety. If someone has sent them my picture intentionally as I may guess, then they must prepare to investigate who give them permission to use my picture without my consent before I reach Juba to bring the case against their wrong willingness of publications.
On the other hands, I am here to inform my community, my family; parents and my colleagues and friends world wide that anything that would occur to me while attending my academic activities around the world, would be counted to the Southern Eye newspapers that have risked my image globally. I am a researcher and academia who travel frequently to different countries for research purposes and international conferences. I believe that my time will allow me to reach Juba as soon and confront the publisher through legal mean.
The author of this public rebuttal note is a member of Jonglei community in diaspora. He holds a BA in Sociology and Political Science, and MA in international Law and Human Rights. He is currently in Brussels, Belgium (United Kingdom). You can reach him at [email protected] if you wanted to find more information about this alarming concern.