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)
JUBA – The Chairperson of South Sudan’s Civil Society Alliance, Deng Athuai, who is a prominent anti-corruption and human rights activist, was found by the side of a road in Juba on Saturday tied in a sack and severely beaten, according to military sources.
A military intelligence source told Sudan Tribune that Athuai was found “crying inside sack along the road side” between Kabur-tit and Gumba forest by the South Sudan security services.
Athuai is reported to have been taken to the Juba Teaching Hospital and is in a “coma”, according to a nurse who did not wish to be named.
“Athuai is suffering for internal wounds in his stomach, head, eye, feet and throat”, the nurse told Sudan Tribune.
The executive director of the Civil Society Alliance, Biel Boutros Biel told South Sudan Radio on Friday that Athuai had disappeared after leaving his residence at the Beach Hotel in Juba on Wednesday.
Boutros, who heads the South Sudan Human Rights Advocacy Association (SSHRAA), said that he suspected that his colleague, who has been instrumental in anti-corruption campaigning and other issues, had been kidnapped. He refused to speculate over who could be responsible.
Athuai was among the activists that marched to South Sudan’s parliament demanding the government publish the names of the officials alleged to have stolen a total of $4 billion since 2005.
South Sudan celebrates it’s first year as an independent nation on Monday 9 July, having voted to secede from Sudan after decades of civil war. Greater human rights, better governance, freedom of expression and association were among the causes the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) stated as it’s aims during the 1983-2005 conflict.
The SPLA is now South Sudan’s official army, while the SPLM is the country’s ruling party. Corruption, human rights abuses and insecurity are some of the major internal issues facing the young nation.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir wrote to 75 senior officials on 3 May asking them to return stolen money.
“We fought for freedom, justice and equality,” President ’Kiir’s letter reads. “Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people.”
Human Rights Watch and other groups are taking the opportunity of South Sudan’s first independence anniversary to urge the SPLM to mark the occasion by freeing all unlawfully detained prisoners, guaranteeing freedom of speech, and accelerating ratification of key international human rights treaties.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others of called on Juba to take steps to ensure that security forces are held accountable for human rights abuses.
Major General Mac Paul, the deputy director of military intelligence for South Sudan, told Sudan Tribune that he did not know what had happened to Athuai.