Nothing conveys more powerfully the critical importance of press freedom than experiencing its absence. I was restricted from writing about my recent visit to South Sudan. But on Press Freedom day, it is time to share a report of one moment I will never forget.
At the market today, it was hot, and I was the only tourist. Juba, the tense chaotic dirt-floored capital of South Sudan. It had taken three layers of government, two hundred dollars, twelve handshakes and an armed guard to be able to take a photo of locals buying fruit. One of my three escorts was a man in uniform carrying an AK47. After a few nervous attempts at a photo, amidst the noise and dust, the gaggle and bright fabrics, the odd smell of something rotten, and shirtless men chopping meat, my heart was stopped. A child walked past me. No, he was not walking, he was stepping on the broken ground with little feet, deformed from untreated sores. He, wait, was he a he? He or she wore rags and looked about 3 or 4 years of age. He was wandering, in search of food. There was no mother, no father, no brother, nobody followed him, no one was looking out for him. There is not much I can say about South Sudan as this is a place where speech is not free. I am bound not to speak and I cannot imagine ever losing the anger at how that makes me feel. But of the little child who walked alone I cannot be silent, and I will never forget.