Vice tightens on South Sudan’s journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an increase in the harassment of journalists and media outlets in South Sudan, amid civil society calls for the resignation of President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar.
The targets include Radio Jonglei, which has not broadcast since 27 August, when security officials raided the station, closed it down, briefly detained three of his journalists – Matuor Mabior Anyang, Ayuen Garang Kur and Deng Gai Deng – and confiscated their mobile phones.
The official reason for the raid was to prevent the station from continuing to broadcast because its journalists were suspected of sympathising with the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) and were accused of broadcasting a call for a protest that was supposed to have taken place on 30 August.
The radio station’s director told RSF that, in the days prior to the raid, he received several calls from security officials summoning him to a meeting and ordering him to stop covering political stories.
The raid on Radio Jonglei is the latest in a series of reprisals against journalists since the start of July, when Alfred Angasi, a news presenter with the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), was arrested and held arbitrarily for more than two weeks for refusing to read part of a presidential decree during a news programme.
Al Jazeera reporter Ajou Luol was briefly detained as a result of an argument with security agents when President Kiir gave a speech at the opening of parliament on 30 August. Two other journalists who were present at the time, Maura Ajak and Yom Manas, were threatened and roughed up, and their equipment was seized, when they tried to boycott the session in protest against Luol’s detention.
“The wave of arrests and threats against journalists in recent weeks is worrying,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The undisguised hostility of the authorities towards the media highlights how difficult it is for journalists to cover politics in South Sudan, where at least ten have been killed since 2014. We call for an immediate end to the harassment of South Sudanese reporters and media.”
Online news and information are meanwhile closely monitored and even censored. Internet access was cut throughout the country on 30 August, the day of the planned anti-government protest, which the armed forces prevented from taking place. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a media director told RSF he was fined the equivalent of several thousand euros a few weeks ago for posting videos on Facebook that the authorities regarded as “malicious.”
South Sudan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.