A veteran journalist has been detained in South Sudan less than a month after the government “agreed to be a pilot country for a UN program to create a free and safe environment for media workers,” VOA reports.
Alfred Taban (right), chief editor of The Juba Monitor, says he was held in ‘very difficult conditions’ after publishing an opinion piece claiming that a former state governor misappropriated public funds.
“I was… served with an arrest warrant and then placed in very difficult conditions… [in] a room about three yards by five yards,” he said. “It was not really for human beings.”
Taban’s detention came after the US Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan expressed concern that the neighboring government in Khartoum has been “increasingly engaged in a ‘crackdown’ on civil society organizations and leaders.”
“In addition to the recent arrests and closures of NGOs, the government of Sudan has launched a campaign of censorship and reprisal against newspapers critical of the government,” said Ambassador Princeton N Lyman, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
“This crackdown on civil society, the media and opposition parties worsened last month after the signing of the so-called ‘New Dawn Charter’ between the movements making up the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the non-violent opposition political parties gathered in the National Consensus Forces.,” he wrote.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned Taban’s arrest, and complained that the journalist was treated like a criminal and held in “very inhumane conditions.” “Citizens must be allowed to express their views in the public interest as this is what guarantees good governance, accountability and probity,” the IFJ statement said.
At least 10 journalists have been detained without charge in the world’s youngest state in the last two months, says the Union for Journalists in South Sudan.
“We urge parliamentarians to pass the laws to protect journalists, media actors and the public. The delay of passing the media laws is a challenge for the administration of justice for journalists, media houses and the public in South Sudan,” said Oliver Modi Philip, the union’s leader.