JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - John Wulu is the manager and chief editor of Top FM, a radio station in Juba, South Sudan's capital. He says journalists broadcasting stories that shed light on corruption face intimidation and threatening phone calls from unidentified individuals.
Wulu said most media houses in the country have a hard time working on in-depth reports due to a lack of access, censorship and harassment - at times coming from South Sudan security operatives.
'Reporting security issues is a red line between us and the government. No. 2 is about corruption,' he told VOA. 'These are the red lines whereby if you report corruption, you will not be safe.'
Wulu said female journalists face additional risks, such as gender-based violence, and certain assignments 'put some female journalists in danger' of 'harassment directly.' That, Wulu added, has forced some journalists to abandon the profession.
The executive director for Community Media Network South Sudan, Josephine Achiro, said the lack of press freedoms has had a chilling effect on journalism.
'The quality of content is reducing simply because of censorship and harassment. Most of the journalists decide to censor themselves because they fear harassment, intimidation,' Achiro said. 'So, everyone now decides to pick a soft angle, like when you are going to write a story you make sure you pick an angle that will not create issues between you and the authority.'
A former reporter with a Juba-based newspaper, The City Review, said the country's media environment is challenging. Keji Janefer Silver and eight other journalists were detained by security operatives in Juba last year after covering a briefing by opposition politicians in parliament. The journalists worked for different media outlets, including VOA.
'If you are not strong enough, you are not flexible, you are not creative and you don't have that heart of endurance, media work becomes very difficult,' Silver told VOA. 'There are people who don't want to have friction all the time with people, and they suggest doing something where they don't face those challenges.'
Reporter Anne Ayada with Mingkaman FM, a community-based radio station in Lakes State's Awerial County located in central South Sudan, said female journalists have a harder time getting sources to speak on the record compared to their male counterparts.
'Journalists should have freedom to express themselves, to cover the stories, to do investigative journalism without being threatened,' Ayada said, adding that she wishes 'women in this field of journalism to be given [access] if there is a story they want to cover, let them cover it; give them the story, they are as important as men who also do journalism.'
South Sudan Deputy Minister of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services Jacob Maiju Baba Korok told VOA the media environment in the country is conducive despite a few isolated incidents of arrests and intimidation.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, commonly known by its French acronym RSF, says at least nine journalists have been killed in the country since 2014. RSF says media outlets in South Sudan are routinely blocked from covering issues related to conflict and journalists often face harassment, arbitrary detention and intimidation.
This story originated in VOA English to Africa's South Sudan In Focus Program.