Senegal: CPJ says another journalist arrested in South Sudan

Dakar, Senegal (PANA – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in South Sudan to immediately release journalist Michael Christopher who was arrested in the capital, Juba, on 23 July.

In a statement, made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Wednesday, the press freedom watchdog called on South Sudan to take action and stop the harassment of the media following the earlier arrest and detention of another journalist, Alfred Taban.

According to CPJ, Christopher, the editor-in-chief of the independent Arabic-language daily al-Watan, was arrested by the National Security Service after his paper allegedly published an inaccurate report.

His arrest comes as journalists in the country report increased pressure amid fighting between the supporters of President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar this month.

The statement disclosed that Alfred Taban, the editor-in-chief of Juba Monitor, was charged and denied bail on 24 July over a column about the fighting, and two other journalists were said to have been also attacked.

"We urge President Salva Kiir to take all necessary steps to protect journalists in South Sudan and to ensure that their right to freedom of expression is not violated," remarked CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Angela Quintal.

"Michael Christopher and Alfred Taban should be immediately released from jail and allowed to continue their journalism in the interests of the people of South Sudan and the region, who need to be kept abreast of developments."

The statement also quoted Abraham Malek, head of the South Sudan Journalist's Network, as saying that Christopher was arrested after his paper mistakenly reported that a peacekeeping force from neighboring countries would arrive this week in the South Sudanese capital.

Malek said the paper's deputy chief editor apologized for the error at a news conference over the weekend.

The story was said to have been published as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the African Union called for a peacekeeping force to protect civilians from fighting between supporters of Kiir and Machar but Kiir was said to have opposed the proposal.

Edmund Yakani, the director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, which campaigns for the protection of the rights of journalists and civil society activists in South Sudan, told CPJ that Christopher has not been charged and efforts by campaigners to visit him at the National Security Service headquarters had proved futile.

Meanwhile, the statement pointed out that Taban, who was arrested on 16 July, has been charged under Article 75 of the penal code, "publishing or communicating false statement prejudicial to Southern Sudan," and Article 76, "undermining authority of and insulting the president," and he was said to have been denied bail.

The day before his arrest, Taban published a column calling on Kiir and Machar to step down from power for failing to improve the security situation in the capital, Juba.

CPJ said the clashes between supporters of the president and vice-president have created a hostile environment for the press as two other journalists, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, indicated that a few days after the 11 July clashes they were attacked on their way back from their offices.

One of the journalists told CPJ he was riding home on a motorcycle taxi when he was accosted by men who arrived on two motorbikes, forced him off the bike, and attacked him with kicks and blows before taking his computer and phone.

The second journalist said he was awaiting medical treatment for injuries after being abducted outside his office and beaten and dumped near the outskirts of Juba and both journalists told CPJ they had been threatened before the attacks and they believe they were targeted because of their work for independent news outlets.

Meanwhile, the power struggle between Kiir and Machar set off a civil war in 2013 and after a peace deal was signed in December 2015, Machar returned to his role.

The statement noted that the vice president allegedly left the city after clashes on 11 July and on 22 July. A spokesman for the president said Machar had been temporarily replaced with Taban Deng and observers said the move would further undermine efforts to support the peace process.  
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 27July2016

27 july 2016 14:55:30

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