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Activists ask Lakes State governor to end unlawful arrest of journalists

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May 20, 2012 (JUBA/RUMBEK) - Civil society and human rights groups have criticised police in South Sudan’s Lakes State for the arrest, and three-night detention of a female journalist who works for state-owned Radio Rumbek FM 98.

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Lakes State Police Commissioner Saed Abdulatif Cawuol Lom at Rumbek Airport, South Sudan, 2011 (ST)

Ayak Dhieu Apar was arrested on Monday 14 May and held until Thursday 17 May, after she hosted a live radio talk show about the public’s respect for the police, with various listeners calling in to criticise the conduct and competence of the police services.

Lakes State Commissioner of Police, Maj-Gen Saed Abdulatif Chawuol Lom, is reported to have visited the office of the radio station himself to oversee her arrest.

The governor of Lakes State, Chol Tong Mayay said, reportedly under heavy pressure from local youth activists and the director of the radio station, that the case will be treated as a personal case between individual policeman who ordered the arrest and the radio journalist.

Activists have called on the government to acquaint themselves with, and uphold, the constitution of South Sudan and stop the unlawful arrest and harassment journalists.

Moses Ater, a youth member of the country’s ruling party, the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), advised the police that they would avoid criticism if they improved their performance.

He said that the police "deserved to be criticised" because their services were "very weak". Ater said that the police did not have the capacity to protect civilians "or to imposed rule of law" in Lakes State.

Ater also accused the police of being involved in crime and excessive drinking of alcohol.

Ayak’s radio programme invited callers to give their opinions about the police, she had not broken any law or violated the constitution, which "allows freedom of expression and equal access to media”, he added.

Human rights body condemns Ayak’s arrest

The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHRA), on Saturday and Sunday condemned in the strongest terms, Ayak’s arbitrary arrest, describing it as “unconstitutional” and a threat to media freedom in the world’s newest nation.

It remains unclear under what law Ajak will be charged, given that South Sudan still lacks a media law, despite South Sudan being governed by the SPLM since 2005 and achieving independence last year.

Individual freedom was one of the stated causes of the SPLM’s two-decade war with various Khartoum governments.

Biel Boutros Biel, the executive director of SSHRA, urged the police to uphold the constitution, calling for the “immediate” resignation of the Lakes State Commissioner of Police, Maj-Gen Saed Abdulatif Chawuol Lom.

“I am convinced that such an act of arresting Ayak plus many more unconstitutional acts in the hands of our law enforcement agencies can hardly be distinguished from the evils for which South Sudan took up arms for against Khartoum,” Biel told Sudan Tribune.

“It is so sad that most of our institutions are doing exactly what caused South Sudan to secede from North Sudan."

The police sent five trucks full of policemen to arrest Ayak, after the director of Radio Rumbek FM-98, Deng Mesheck, refused to hand his journalist over without an arrest warrant.

Mesheck says that he will take the Lakes State police to court over the arrest, hiring six lawyers from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The director of the government-funded radio station threaten to resign if the rule of law is not followed.

Lakes State minister for Information and Communication, Charles Badiri Mayen, said this case will be guided according to the will of Lakes State’s Governor.

Unconstitutional

Human rights activist Biel described Ayak as the voice of the voiceless in society and said the actions of the police had contravened the country’s transitional constitution and the principles of the rule of law within the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Detaining Ayak for two days in [a] police cell was a practical violation of Article 19(4) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 that states; ’A person arrested by the police as part of an investigation, may be held in detention, for a period not exceeding 24 hours and if not released on bond to be produced in court. The court has authority to either remand the accused in prison or to release him or her on bail’ ”, he said, further citing section 64(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 2008 Laws of South(Southern) Sudan, which he claimed was also violated by the police.

In a strongly-worded petition copied to the South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC), the Justice Ministry and the Committee on Human Rights in the South Sudan National Legislative Assembly called for the immediate withdrawal of all cases the police have brought against the journalist. The petition also asks that the Justice Ministry investigates the matter and holds the police officers responsible to account.

Youth Activists Condemn Violation of Press Freedom

Malou Manyiel, a student from Kampala told Sudan Tribune that Ayak was just doing her job as a journalist, allowing people to air their views. If not on a radio talks show, "Where and when on earth are we going to have our views heard? Will it be in our graves?", he asked.

Manyiel, like many other citizens Sudan Tribune has spoken to, accuse the police in Lakes State of committing crimes, especially of theft and steeling property.

"In the real sense, police are the most criminals and they are the one promoting crimes in our state in particular”, he said, adding that some of the police had "turned against the people they were trained to protect".

Another youth activist, Alexander Mwangi, urged Lakes State citizens to use the rights granted to them under the constitution effectively.

If the police were not doing their duties to an acceptable standard, "they are to be condemned. Wake up people! Do your job and stop harassing a youngster”, he said, referring to Ayak.

Martin Manyiel Wugol, another youth activist told Sudan Tribune that he is very surprised to see the police act in this way against a state-owned institution.

As Radio Rumbek FM-98 is government-owned station, he wondered why the matter wasn’t just taken up by Lakes State’s Ministry of Information on behalf of the police rather than taking the "uneducated" option of arresting the journalist.

Ayak’s arrest was a slap in the face for journalism in Lakes State and South Sudan in general, he said.

Human rights group’s demands

The South Sudan Human Rights and Advocacy Association have said that the following steps should be taken in relation to the case:

  • Lakes State’s police Commissioner Major General Saed Abdulatif Chawuol Lom should resign from his position pending investigations for his alleged role in instructing or ordering his officers to arbitrarily arrest journalist Ayak Dhieu Apar and detain her illegally beyond the constitutionally enshrined 24 hour detention limit.
  • Rumbek police should withdraw all charges against Ayak and, if the police have good reason to believe that they have a genuine case then, their claims should be directed against the management of Radio Rumbek 98 FM not the individual journalist.
  • The Judiciary of South Sudan should intervene immediately and dismiss defamatory charges against journalist Ayak. The Judiciary should make their position clear because silence on this will mean condoning a violation of the Constitution, protection of which is their main function.
  • South Sudan’s Ministry of Justice should constitute an investigation team and bring those found responsible to account, including the alleged role of the Lakes State’s police commissioner, subsequent to his prior and immediate resignation.
  • South Sudan’s Ministry of Interior should exercise the maximum control over its personnel, which at times willfully violate the Constitution. All South Sudanese citizens should own, adhere, uphold and protect the Constitution against any attack.

(ST)

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  • 21 May 2012 08:11, by Abednego Majack Macharial

    Did I hear it right from the reporter that Lakes State Minister of Information said "Ayak case will be treated according to the will of the governor"? That is irresponsible statement if the Hon Minister has said so.

    Ayak arbitrarily arrest case is a complete violation of her rights as a journalist (voice of the voiceless) and her own freedom of expression as a citizens.Shame on the police boss.

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  • 21 May 2012 08:40, by Akolde Nhiak Jinub

    S.Sudan & Lakes citizens, it is unfortunate that this little incident has already been magnified n gone beyond borders. Min. of Info & Telecom statement that this will be sorted out according to Governor’s will has no bases. Governor isn’t lawyer nor will this case be dismissed as lightly as thought. 1st Ayak has been arrested beyond constitutional 24hr period, 2nd charged of alleged defamation et

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  • 21 May 2012 08:40, by Akook

    While any detention of a journalist might be wrong, this repeatted article on allegation against the ever professional police commander all over the South Saed Chawul Lom, isn’t hard enough to note an organised conspiracy purported here against Lakes state police.

    Police unlike politicians who at anytime are subject to criticism, are a professional force.

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    • 21 May 2012 08:49, by Akook

      Police like our military are a professional force and any publicly hosted criticism by the journalist could lawfully warrant detention, as it so has been done. There is nothing wrong at all with this as Mr Governor’s apparachiks are purporting this to be any bigger agenda. It’s clear being journalist comes with responsibility not as blind as people commenting here are trying to orchestrate

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      • 21 May 2012 08:56, by Akook

        Its also clear Mr Governor had an issue with police commander since when He was accuse of impregnating a girl and police commissioner was serious about it, investigating this in details therefore Chol Tong must be looking at every crook to claim ploice commissioner being removed to give way for any naive soft minded one who heeds & hide his shame

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        • 21 May 2012 09:09, by Akook

          My colleague the Info minister Badiri Mayen, your comments are making this issue looks even grimmer. Otherwise these weren’t the kind of youths we want to see foundating our way. you need to do a little better next time.There are youths Chol Tong employed who has never done a single big assignment in their lives, deadly lacking capacity and professionalism to handle themselves let alone others

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      • 21 May 2012 09:31, by Gives-poor ’ier dues

        This Commissioner of police had been in the north police service and dismissed two times of misconduct and unlawful acts and degraded from rank of major to SGT.then went exile toEgyt.
        2009 he came in south looking for a job badly, then his brother Khamis Chawul-Lom sempythetical talked to Achuil the IGP of souht sudan to rank him from SGT to Moj.G.!!!!
        in this case, you can even judge..........

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        • 21 May 2012 09:48, by Akook

          So what’s wrong about others talking to others to promote who they know and can do their job as well about Arabs’ colonisation we all fought. Saed is critical doing his job as you physcally witnessed in Rumbek now than those dudes managing budgets without single dev’t being seen anywhere...Defamation, who’s better than us!

          So Arabs didn’t promote him in Khartouum..

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          • 21 May 2012 13:15, by Gives-poor ’ier dues

            Akook/Akoop.
            let me tell you if you are not residing in Rumbek Bro.what is here is(government of families,clans and friends)No justice here at all, Ayak was detained in vain as personel feelings and wrongs done are touched by the callers ofFM they turn Community of Lakes as pasture surface.
            But you can,t talk about it you’ll find yourself in custody,
            is that the aim of Libratin? time will come!

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        • 21 May 2012 13:13, by Morthon Akol

          i HOPE YOU ARE REALLY POOR OF TRUTH AND FULL OF LIES. SAID CHWUL WAS A POLICEMAN BEFORE YOU BORN AND HE DID NOT BEEN DISMIss BECOUSE OF MISCOnduct AS YOU PUTED AND HE NEVER BEEN DEGRADED FROM HIS RANK. ANOTHER THINK IS THAT HE COME TO SOUTH SUDAN BEFORE HIS BROTHER KHAMIS IF YOU SAID THAT ITS HIM WHO SEMPYTHETICAL TO ACHUIL ABUT KHMIS THAN YOU ARE RIGHT BUT. ITS BETTER TO FIND THE TRUTH FIRST.

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          • 21 May 2012 13:30, by Gives-poor ’ier dues

            And then,are condamning the unlawful act he did to female journelist? if not you are the private guards whom he sent out to loot in the market,exchange the fake money,deduct policemen salaries for getting himself $ his son married with each marrying 180 cows,where did ou get them? fuck.

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            • 21 May 2012 14:30, by Akook

              My name is Akook. you need to be calm.you seem to have chronic hate of the police commissioner otherwise get the fact hard that Journalists male or female better keep their mouths shut when it comes to the armed forces.Whose responsibility does it come about when she publicly hosted a live show of criticism not against politicians but armed forces. think man! Pple are grabbing democracy by the tai

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      • 21 May 2012 14:49, by Wen Ahon

        Akook!
        The police and military are abusing and misconducting their duties and if the protected people are not impressed by their coducts, then there is a need of police and military personel to be reminded of their wrong doings.

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      • 21 May 2012 15:10, by Wen Ahon

        Akook!
        police and military are protectors of those whom they abused their duties upon. if a police or military personel mistreated the citizens and complain about their wrong doings, then there is a need for them to be reminded and they should admitted rather then being autocrat

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  • 21 May 2012 08:52, by Daniel Buolmawei

    "Rumbek police should withdraw all alleged charges against Ayak and if the police have better reasons to believe that they have a genuine case; then their suit of claim should be directed to and proved against the Radio Rumbek management and not individual journalist Ayak."

    These are true statements. You sue CNN, FOX News, etc. not its employees. This case is really personal.

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    • 21 May 2012 09:11, by Kurnyel

      No laws or rules in the entire country of South Sudan why are you focusing on Lakes State alone?

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      • 21 May 2012 09:26, by Akook

        Since Where and when did Human Rights ever call for release of those detained; and at the same time ask for resignation of officials concern. Whose kids are the Author of this article thought, are his news consumers. Calling those of Malou Manyiel youth activist when we know are governor’s homeboys and relative he just sponsored into East African schools. Thinks we are stupid to be fed with wrongs

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      • 21 May 2012 09:38, by Chol A.

        Kurnyel, or dog do you have Law in Sudan? please don’t just haling your nose on southern sudanese affairs. We Southern sudanese has equal right for all whether male or female, what of north do have female journalist or any female models? you always assulted your own jounalist what do you have to say? get your wet ass out of here fool.

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        • 21 May 2012 12:21, by Dinka Dominated SPLA/M

          I don’t have personal problem with Malok Awan Anyei but he is an idiot Dinka, I know since in 1989, he is full of temper and bad attitudes, I even told Kiir once day that this man should be kept in the army not civilians leader but Mathok thank that he is better than Dau, every time you go to aweil, you hear complain about his rule, this not good for the country image

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          • 21 May 2012 12:49, by Jewish Ally

            Please and please don’t just jump out from the point people are discussing, you have person problem with Malong otherwise there is no connection of Malong with what people are talking here.
            hit the nail at the top but stop beating arround the bush.
            i am not for him or against him but i don’t see the necessity of mentioning him here
            thank you

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            • 21 May 2012 12:52, by Jewish Ally

              there is no body above the law if the police are wrong then they should be judge wrong and condemn as well as to the Journalist.
              let not the cover of the book but first see what is in side
              then we can truly judge rightfully

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          • 21 May 2012 12:50, by Abednego Majack Macharial

            Dinka Dominated SPLA/M or whoever you call yourself, stop being naive and idiot. Your comment is not relevant to this topic of discussion.

            It is about unlawful arrest of a female journalist in Lakes State, and not about Malong Awan in Aweil. Learn to be a person with good reasoning capacity.

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            • 21 May 2012 13:34, by Dinka Dominated SPLA/M

              Please you don’t know who Malong Awan is, you are just a fool who got annoying by the name mention, ask me who he is and I will tell you unless you are foolish who was born to cover truth up, what did I said here that is not true? Even I myself involved solving his foul behaviour with a lot of intellectual within SPLM, don’t make me go so far for this since you are a barking dog with no ideas who

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              • 21 May 2012 13:41, by Dinka Dominated SPLA/M

                you talking to,
                I know him [Malong] than Kiir does, so please back off,reading news somewhere does not qualify you to know people

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                • 21 May 2012 14:02, by Dinka Dominated SPLA/M

                  I mean Chol Tong not Malong Awan, ’mistake’

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