​South Sudanese journalists face threats as political violence escalates

Amid the return of conflict in South Sudan, media veteran and former BBC correspondent Alfred Taban was arrested on July 16 by National Security Service (NSS) agents.

In an editorial for the Juba Monitor, where he is editor-in-chief, Taban had called for the removal of President Salava Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar.

On July 22, Taban was charged with “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to Southern Sudan” and “undermining the authority of or insulting the president”. Journalists and human rights advocates in the region called for authorities to release Taban and drop all charges against him, with many using the hashtag #FreeAlfredTaban. Taban was released on bail on July 30.

Taban was once a member of the South Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the entity that has now detained him.

In March this year, Taban highlighted the paradox in a conversation with online newspaper The Intercept: “The same people — the leaders — who would have me arrested today are the people I was arrested with [back then]. It’s as if we struggled for nothing.”


One reporter said Taban is not the only journalist who has been detained by the NSS and held without charge. “You should also know that we have [another] journalist inside for almost two years — George Livio.”

The international community has demanded that the South Sudanese authorities either charge those who’ve been detained or release them.

In August last year, a young journalist named Moi Peter Julius was shot in the back with a pistol at close range by an “unknown gunman”.

The killing took place shortly after Kiir had threatened to kill journalists for reporting “against the country”. A few days later, the president’s spokesperson withdrew the statement, saying that the president did not mean it “that way.”

The media and civil society have long struggled to survive in Sudan and South Sudan, but the conflict that erupted in 2013 has made working in media more dangerous.

In 2014, officials banned journalists from citing political or militant sources opposing the government.

Although South Sudan has passed Bills on public broadcasting and media oversight authority to ensure citizens’ access to information, these have not been implemented. But authorities have implemented the National Security Service Act, which Amnesty International described as follows: “The NSS Act of 2014 grants the NSS sweeping powers to arrest and detain, without ensuring adequate judicial oversight or safeguards against abuse of these powers … The law effectively gives carte blanche to the NSS to continue and extend its longstanding pattern of arbitrary detention, with total impunity.” — Globalvoices.org

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Pernille Baerendtsen
Pernille Baerendtsen works from #Copenhagen #Belgrade #Africa. Journalist, MA African Studies, Co-Curator of 'Instagramming #EastAfrica' for @AfricanMuseum #Belgrade. Also @thekangabook @globalvoicesonline @timbuktufonden Pernille Baerendtsen has over 7099 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Ethiopia is about to cross the point of no return

As the conflict between the national government and Tigray escalates, the window for intervention is closing fast

Conflict until the cows come home

Climate change and civil war are escalating tensions between South Sudan’s herders and crop farmers, who are competing over land

Mozambican authorities must stop the attack on media freedom

When journalists stop telling the truth about what’s going on in their country, when they stop exposing wrongdoing and corruption allegations, everyone suffers

South Sudan’s forex shortage highlights broader economic crisis

South Sudan has nearly run out of foreign currency – and this is just the tip of a much bigger economic crisis.

The foreign aid game is changing: these are the opportunities for Africa

A more explicit emphasis on the national interest may encourage donor countries to play ‘the long game’ in Africa

‘Killing the chicken to scare the monkey’: what Jimmy Lai’s arrest means for Hong Kong’s independent media

Although self-censorship has long been a concern, Hong Kong has traditionally enjoyed a vibrant free press
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…