JUBA – South Sudan police detained three journalists from the Gurtong website on Friday in the capital Juba, two days after a leading political commentator, Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
At around 10am the journalists’ driver was arrested and taken to a police station after he failed to show his driving licence. The incident occured on the road to Hai Referendum in Gudelle , the western suburb of the capital where Awuol was killed early on Wednesday morning.
The three reporters say they followed the police car which had taken their colleague to Bukul police station but when they entered a scuffle broke out and they were all beaten and detained. The police had wanted to delete photos taken by the journalists, one of the reporters said.
However, the pressmen added, a more senior police officer intervened and released the reporters, recommending that they open a case against the police for mistreating them.
The spokesman of the South Sudan Police Services, Col. James Monday, told UN Radio Miraya FM’s ’Inside South Sudan Program’ at 5 pm on Friday that the three policemen who were involved had been placed in detention for further questioning.
One of the journalist told Sudan Tribune that the police “did not know that we journalists” until they started taking photographs at the police station. Although they had press cards, the journalists said that they did not have time to show them to the police before they were beaten and detained.
He said that their cameras and recorders were taken from them as the policemen wanted to delete any information or photos taken but the equipment was returned upon their release.
All the three journalists work for the Gurtong website, one of the online publications that the late Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol used to write for before his death.
UN concerned over death of columnist
On Friday the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expressed “deep concern” over the death of the independent columnist who was also known as Diing Chan Awuol and wrote under the pen name, Isaiah Ding Abraham.
Awuol had worked for the United Nations during the war as well as, at other times, fighting with the southern rebels which now govern independent South Sudan.
In a statement, UNMISS said that the full and thorough investigation promised by South Sudan President Salva Kiir was of “utmost importance”.
Awuol was shot outside his home in Gudelle between midnight and 4am on 5 December. Family members and friends have spoken anonymously about the threats he received before his death due to articles, which were often critical of government.
As well as Gurtong, Awuol also wrote frequent columns for Sudan Tribune and also wrote for the Destiny newspaper, while it was publishing.
Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday that Awuol’s “death is a tragic setback to the hopes cherished by South Sudan’s defenders of freedom of opinion since independence” in July 2011 as part of a landmark 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
The press freedom group added: “The way this case is handled will be test for freedom of information and free speech in this young nation. Only a tireless fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists and other news providers will preserve these freedoms, which are the basis of democracy.”
If it is established that Awuol’s death was motivated by his writing, he will be the first South Sudanese journalist to be killed in connection with his work.
South Sudan’s ruling party – the SPLM – and the young nation’s army – the SPLA – have proven sensitive to criticism since they came to power in 2005, struggling to adjust to the move from guerilla movement to responsible governance.
One of Awuol’s relatives told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday: “I knew he would one day be assassinated for his writings and I told him to stop but he said he would prefer to die than to stop writing.”
- South Sudan police authorities investigate killing of political commentator (sudantribune.com)
- RWB: Opinion writer gunned down outside Juba home (sudantribune.com)
An Israeli journalist who drew on leaked army documents to report the deliberate assassinations of Palestinian leaders was convicted on Thursday, but spared jail time in a plea bargain.
Uri Blau of Haaretz newspaper will do four months community service after confessing to reduced charges of possessing classified information without authorization but “with no intent to harm national security,” Israel’s State Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Prosecutors had earlier stated Blau could face more serious espionage charges. That provoked protests from journalists who argued Israel’s reputation for media freedom was at stake.
Blau reported in 2008 that top army officers in the occupied West Bank had given shoot-to-kill orders to troops chasing Palestinian gunmen.
The front-page story was based on documents given to Blau by former army conscript Anat Kamm, who had downloaded them, and hundreds of others, from her computer while a clerk with the military’s high command.
Kamm was jailed for four and a half years in October under a separate plea bargain.
Human rights groups have criticized Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders since the early days of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.
Haaretz said charging Blau was “unfortunate and sets a precedent in terms of its ramifications on the freedom of press in Israel, and especially on the ability to cover the security apparatus.” Other Israeli journalists echoed the condemnation.
Blau’s plea bargain is subject to formal approval by Tel Aviv District Court.
A recent Reporters Without Borders study ranked Israel 92nd out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, behind countries such as Congo, Kenya and Serbia.
- Israeli Government to Prosecute Uri Blau for Espionage (richardsilverstein.com)
BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities should release the director of a new Palestinian satellite broadcaster who has been detained since Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
“Israeli authorities should consider the message they are sending by imprisoning the head of a station that covers news about prisoners,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s coordinator for Mideast issues.
“Authorities should not be holding Bahaa Khairi Moussa, and certainly not without explanation. He should be released immediately, and the station’s equipment should be returned.”
Moussa, the general director of the Palestine Prisoner Channel, was arrested Thursday in Jenin. Soldiers confiscated his station’s equipment during the raid, his colleagues said.
Reporters Without Borders, meanwhile, strongly condemned the arrest.
“Such abuses aimed at stifling the Palestinian media must cease,” the group said Monday.
“This is the third time since the start of 2012 that the Israeli authorities have victimized a Palestinian media organization. We call for the immediate release of Baha Mousa and the return of all confiscated equipment,” the Paris-based group said in a statement.
It called the raid “illegal under international law” because it took place in Palestinian territory.
In April, soldiers shut down the officers of a new broadcaster in occupied East Jerusalem and in February, soldiers raided two Palestinian TV stations, Watan and Al-Quds TV in Ramallah.
- Israel ‘arrests TV director, confiscates equipment’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel arrests 800,000 Palestinians since 1948 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces raided the Jerusalem office of a university media institute on Monday, shutting down the launch of an online media network and detaining employees.
Plainclothes police shut down the launch of the Hona al-Quds news site in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City, and confiscated equipment and files, network director Harun Abu Arrah told Ma’an.
Two employees — Adel Ruished and Mohannad Izheman — were detained, and guests attending the launch were blocked from entering.
Employees were presented with an order signed by the Israeli minister of internal security forbidding the event as a banned initiative of the Palestinian Authority, director of Al-Quds University Institute for Modern Media Lucy Nusseibeh told Ma’an.
The university, which launched Hona al-Quds, has been registered as an independent non-governmental organization with Israeli authorities for decades, Nusseibeh added.
The launch was intended to take place simultaneously with the institute’s Ramallah office by Skype.
Izheman, a university security guard, has since been released with a summons to return to police offices on Tuesday, and Ruished, the university’s Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, is still being held, a university statement said.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the facility was “closed until further notice,” on suspicions of use for Palestinian official activity in Jerusalem.
“This is the second attack on our media institution in five weeks — this is education and not a political project,” Nusseibeh said.
In late February, Israeli forces raided the institute’s Al-Quds Educational TV in Ramallah-district Al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment, claiming it was interrupting legal broadcasting.
The same day, Israeli forces also raided Watan TV’s newsroom in Ramallah and seized transmitters.
Reporters Without Borders said at the time it was “deeply shocked” by the raids.
“These arbitrary and illegal operations served yet again to intimidate Palestinian media and journalists, the victims of repeated attacks by the (Israeli army),” the group said in a statement.
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces attack press with ‘total impunity’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Union condemns Israel extending journalist detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)