Home | News    Monday 21 January 2013

FEATURE: South Sudanese writers live in fear

separation
increase
decrease
separation
separation

January 16, 2013 (JUBA) – Following a series of attacks, intimidation and threats, comment writers and bloggers in South Sudan say they are operating in a heightened sense of fear.

JPEG - 33.2 kb
South Sudanese men read newspapers in Juba on 10 July 2011, the day after independence from Sudan (Source: Phil Moore / AFP)

Speaking a month after a prominent op-ed writer was shot dead by an unknown group after consistently criticising the government, South Sudanese journalists and commentators have spoken to Sudan Tribune about the risks that accompany freedom of expression in the young nation.

“In 2010, I was arrested and detained for 12 hours after writing an article on how president Salva Kiir should have appointed his cabinet,” John Mading Yak recalled on Wednesday.

Yak, who has since abandoned opinion writing, is just one of many South Sudanese writers who have experienced difficulties for expressing his views on national issues through the press.

In an article written three years ago before South Sudan gained independence, Yak proposed that some cabinet positions should be given to people who were "experts" in their field.

The article was published after the 2010 elections under the heading “If I were President Salva Kiir Mayardit, this would be my cabinets". In detention, Yak was allegedly told to stop writing due his young age.

Yak, 27, argues that there should be nothing wrong with young people in South Sudan "who want to express their opinions" in the press and other forums.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 following a referendum promised in the 2005 peace accord that ended two decades of north-south civil war.

During the civil war, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - the former rebels who now govern the world’s youngest nation - stated that they were fighting for the rights of those marginalised by various Khartoum regimes.

The SPLM accused the northern elites, who have ruled Sudan since independence in 1956, of oppression and restriction on fundamental freedoms, including a free press and freedom of expression.

But since taking charge of South Sudan in 2005 as a semi-autonomous region, there have been numerous complaints of intimidation against civil society activists and journalists from agents of the state and their affiliates.

ATTACKS ON THE PRESS

In December 2012, a leading political activist Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol - popularly known as Isaiah Abraham - was killed in Juba. The government says that the circumstances indicate that there is a 70% chance that it was an assassination.

JPEG - 24.6 kb
South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin 2 April 2 2012 (Getty)

Earlier this month, government spokesman and minister of information Baranaba Marial Benjamin said some suspects had been arrested, but nothing more is known about how many or who the suspects are.

Since the killing of Abraham, South Sudanese opinion writers and journalists have lived in fear. Some writers allege that they are threatened by text messages for asking the government to account for the assassination of Abraham.

At a ceremony organised by South Sudanese opinion writers in Juba on 4 January to pay tribute to Abraham, proponents of press freedom talked of their determination to continue “knocking [on] the door of those [in] power.”

Nhial Bol Aken, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Citizen Newspaper, said the killing of journalists is not new in Sudan, having witnessed the practice in Khartoum himself. Bol has now challenged the leaders of the new country to prove that they are different from the Khartoum regime they split away from.

JPEG - 12 kb
Nhial Bol Aken, The Citizen’s editor in chief in Juba 12 December 2010 (ST)

In 2012 Sudan was ranked 170th in the annual press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), with South Sudan ranked 111th out of the 179 states included.

However, the international media watchdog has warned that South Sudan’s ranking is expected to slip in 2013, according Al Jazeera, due to the general heavy handedness of the security forces in dealing with the media and the killing of Abraham at the end of last year.

South Sudan’s problems in regard to media freedom and safety of journalist lies with many of the people working in the country’s government and security, RWB told Al Jazeera. Many officials have picked up bad habits, including a disdain for journalists, from the experience of sharing power with - and previously being ruled by - the Khartoum government for six years during the peace process that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011, the press freedom organisation said.

CHANGING A "WAR MENTALITY"

In September 2011, just months after South Sudan’s independence a report by press freedom group - the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) - found that "local journalists fear the former rebels turned government officials who still harbor a war mentality that is unaccustomed to criticism, and that they are not prepared to extend the freedoms they fought hard to attain."

Recent events, including Abraham’s death, indicate that South Sudan’s journalists are still a long way off achieving the freedom independence had promised.

The issue of state intervention appears to apply to state media as well as the private and independent press.

Employees of South Sudanese state media were recently detained in Wau, following violence there in December last year. The authorities have maintained that it is an administrative issue triggered by the failure to adequately cover a presidential visit. Local journalists, however, say the government has been angered by footage showing armed men - assumed to be police - firing at unarmed protestors reaching the international media.

DECLINE IN CRITICAL OPINION ARTICLES

Though regular contributors to local newspapers have not halted their work, the number of articles critical of the country’s leadership appears to have decreased since Abraham’s murder. Those who stopped commenting on national issues say they don’t want to risk being killed.

“I will write again when I see that the environment [for freedom of expression] is better,” said Manyang David Mayar, a reporter for The Juba Post and a stringer for Voice of America’s South Sudan in Focus programme. Manyang used to contribute opinion articles to local newspapers but now thinks he has to “dance according to the tune.”

He has not been arrested before but says that avoiding writing critical stories is a precautionary measure to protect his life. Writers who faced harassment from suspected state agents, like freelance journalist John Mading Yak, say it is "better to stay alive" and sacrifice his constitutional right to freedom of expression than risk a fate similar to Abraham’s.

STILL NO MEDIA LAW

Efforts made to reach South Sudan’s ministry of information for comment for this article failed, despite several requests. But in the past, officials have called for responsible journalism, adding that enacting a media law will help protect journalists.

Despite governing the South since 2005 the SPLM-dominated parliament has not passed a media law, leaving journalists and proprietors in a legal and security limbo, unclear of their rights and the parametres within which they are allowed to operate.

On 12 December 2012, South Sudan’s National Assembly had a first reading of the media law. No details have been made public on when it will be passed.

But some journalists such as Yak are pessimistic about the difference the new law will make. “I don’t think having a law that is not being respected serves anything,” Yak told Sudan Tribune.

CORRUPTION

One of the unofficial red lines in the South Sudanese press is corruption. Without a media law newspapers are vulnerable to being taken to court and accused of defamation without it being clear what level of evidence they need before publishing allegations against senior figures.

JPEG - 56.9 kb
Former SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum speaking at Chatham House in London on 1 May 2012 (Photo: Chatham House)

The most prominent example took place in March last year, when the The Citizen Newspaper and Al Masir were fined 100,000 South Sudanese pounds for defaming SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum. The newspaper had quoted ex-minister of finance Arthur Akuien Chol accusing Amum of receiving a corrupt payment worth $30 million in 2006.

The court later acquitted Amum due to insufficient evidence, but the (CPJ) reported after the case that considering the hefty fines given out by the court "the odds of any journalist in South Sudan investigating the matter further are slim". The prediction appears to be correct as the whereabouts of the money in question has never been discovered.

TRIBALISM

In such a tribally divided country, South Sudanese journalists also face public criticism. Often accused of siding with tribesmen particularly when covering ethnic violence, threats to journalists’ lives also come from the public. A number of reporters, including Sudan Tribune journalists, have been threatened and abused over the phone for covering various stories.

Earlier this month, John Alier, a reporter for Sudan Tribune in Bor, Jonglei state, received 17 phone calls from unknown people threatening his life for covering a local fight in Bor county between two ethnic groups that left two people dead. Alier was told to avoid “indulging in issues of community”.

“Some of them [the anonymous callers] told me that ‘if national writers like Isaiah Abraham can be killed, then who are you?’” Alier said.

Another freelance journalist in Juba, Machel Amos, says friends alerted him that the security services were trailing him recently in connection to an article he wrote in 2010.

Despite the warning he told Sudan Tribune that he does not plan to stop writing.

“I have not stopped, and plan not to stop writing because it is my favourite job. What matters a lot to me is to be within the frame of professionalism in my writings,” Amos said.

In 2011 another Sudan Tribune journalist was detained illegally without charge for 18 days by security forces after a newspaper he worked for in Juba published an article criticising the marriage of the president’s daughter to an Ethiopian man.

Despite not writing or personally approving the comment piece, the journalist was repeatedly tortured and beaten while in custody and denied access to a lawyer or medical care.

Such incidents have dampened much of the optimism that came with South Sudan’s independence. Many observers say the South Sudanese government is currently at a crossroads in terms of according the fundamental freedoms the SPLM says it stood for during the civil war to its citizens now the movement has become the ruling party.

The Southern Sudan Union of Journalists (SSUJ), a fledgling body that doesn’t include many reporters could not be reached for comment as its head, Philip Atem, did not respond to calls or messages seeking reaction on this story.

(ST)

Useful Links

Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 21 January 2013 04:14, by dinkdong

    I would suggest all the journalists and commentators stop writing and make that fake country go wherever those thugs and corrupted government want it to go.

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 05:03, by Ahmed Chol

      They should keep writing, it is part of their frontline and in frontline people die. They should not retreat for they may get defeated forever. They should write so they that they do not live in fear.
      Aluta continua ... contra que?

      repondre message

    • 9 February 2013 07:13, by mamprait

      Sometimes it is so hard to find good and useful posts out there when doing research. Now I will send it to my colleagues as well. Thank you for being one of them.
      are google reviews important

      repondre message

    • 4 May 2013 19:35, by olivsxa25x

      I am preparing my assignment paper and gathering information on this topic. Your post is one of the better that I have read. Thank you for putting this information into one place.
      natural medicine center

      repondre message

    • 19 June 2013 05:25, by jogimahi9or

      This article has some great and useful information about this subject. Thank you for sharing it in an easy to read and understandable format.
      birthday wish

      repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 05:18, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Honestly, some Journalists, writers, bloggers, news agencies are become part of tribes’ issues too. I.E, in Jonglei ST. where John Alier, Philip Thon Aleu, Jacob Aciek, etc report. These people don’t report honestly within sub-tribes of Dinka. They always sided with Dinka Bor (Bor County)& discriminated these sub-tribes:Dinka Paweny, Atar Dinka, Hol Dinka, Nyarweng Dinka, Hol Dinka, Twi Dinka,et

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 05:19, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Honestly, some Journalists, writers, bloggers, news agencies are become part of tribes’ issues too. I.E, in Jonglei ST. where John Alier, Philip Thon Aleu, Jacob Aciek, etc report. These people don’t report honestly within sub-tribes of Dinka. They always sided with Dinka Bor (Bor County)& discriminated these sub-tribes:Dinka Paweny, Atar Dinka, Hol Dinka, Nyarweng Dinka, Hol Dinka, Twi Dinka,et

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 12:13, by Mading Makuac

      Please stop divide Dinka you fool.there is no any journalist
      discriminate any certain community if you are not mad.

      repondre message

      • 21 January 2013 17:59, by JohnGarangFreedom

        Mading Makuac, you says those words for yourself.

        repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 05:25, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Murle tribe is not always being favor by Journalists. Which is not fair. Other tribes in region too do cause problems to Murle. I like freedom of speech but unethical reporting wouldn’t allow people to truth freedom of speech or expression. Many journalists are deceiving themselves. Others are always favor their leaders & tribes. I hope journalists and other writers should evaluate themselves too.

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 12:09, by Mading Makuac

      Dear Writers,
      It is still early for press to get full independence so write
      with boundaries limit.South Sudan is not like East African
      countries where a journalist can decide to write his own
      shit against the government.I dont discourage you to to
      stop writing but make sure you write something which
      will not touch any individual.Dont mention names if
      you want to keep on breathing!!!

      repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 05:31, by Sundayw

    South Sudanese,
    Let’s not believe stories that SUDAN TRIBUNE runs. If you analyze their content, 80% is about South Sudan, 93& of that is negative and sometimes not even accurate. Sudan Tribune does not publish anything about problems in Darfur, South Kordofan, or Blue Nile where untold atrocities are occurring daily. And when it comes to South Sudan, they don’t report anything good. All negative

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 05:47, by Jalaby

    "Free at last?!" who was slaving you dude?I think those people are hypocrites and thieves too, if north was slaving you then explain to me why you want to have 4 freedoms agreement?! why you still want to have Sudan citizenship?!what? do you love your master who was slaving you?!
    Those people are hopeless case, they’ve a mental issue!

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 08:51, by Wek Kawaja

      Jalabi i warnin u man stop stickin ur nose in other people,s affairs. if u got gut 2 that then i imagine ur no body of human being at all y dont u concentrate on ur national criminal party ncp lmfao man we tired of ur nonsenses comments

      repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:01, by Jalaby

    "During the civil war, SPLM - the former rebels who now govern the world’s youngest nation - stated that they were fighting for the rights of those marginalised by various Khartoum regimes"
    I’ve never ever bought their rotting political theme in my life, because I know they’re liars and hypocrites, only naive people did!!!

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 06:31, by James Maker Akok

      Jalaby,
      Jalaby, you just turn every word that we Southerns Sudanese people we are the once who need relationship with North Sudan, we don’t need relationship with North Sudan, if we need relationship with North Sudan we might separated in the first time. So stop your liars of making yourself proud for nothing.

      repondre message

      • 21 January 2013 06:45, by James Maker Akok

        I mean, we might not separated

        repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 08:12, by Nuer Empire

      JallabY:You are noisy man.Terrorism and Alqaedaism are your Greatest Hobby.Journalists are not threatened like you do in your fake zone

      repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 18:54, by no peace with north

      You know Jalaba south people you have been killed are more than expected leave only person we are talking about known as Isaiah Abraham. That time you kill ten people a day and nobody can ask why government these men, if you ask you will be kill too in 1982 my cousin was killed by sudan government he was assistence minister and two days after three senior government killed from south and no q?.

      repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 18:55, by no peace with north

      You know Jalaba south people you have been killed are more than expected leave only person we are talking about known as Isaiah Abraham. That time you kill ten people a day and nobody can ask why government these men, if you ask you will be kill too in 1982 my cousin was killed by sudan government he was assistence minister and two days after three senior government killed from south and no q?.

      repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:14, by Junubda

    South Sudan citizens are just coward why they don’t go out and overthrow that government, Khartoum Government is better then them they aren’t going to be there for ever let wait when they become normal people they will be killed by unknown like Isaih Abraham.

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 09:34, by EES Kingmaker

      Shamalda Al Unsuria
      South Sudanese are never cowards as you assumed. Gagging and arresting journalists, bloggers, opinion writers and writers is the practice Khartoum has been doing with high degree of precision and ruthlessness. When did criminal Bashir come to learn and understand the press freedom? Is it not Sudan Press Council the most repressive media

      repondre message

      • 21 January 2013 09:39, by EES Kingmaker

        body kept journalists on their knees and go underground? It is not just a matter labeling South Sudan and its government. No one entertains press restriction if we want to check government is doing. Press freedom is the least in Sudan. We have seen how Sudan scored the worst image of intimidation, harassment, gagging and killing of journalists.

        repondre message

        • 21 January 2013 09:41, by EES Kingmaker

          Reform before poking your nose to South Sudan’s affairs. The Sudan’s position in Reporters without Borders index is most shocking (170 0ut 179). It remains grim and somber abuser of media rights.

          repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:28, by Foxtail

    there is nothing atall to fear about. the killing of Isaiah is a headach to government. let them kill another and they’ll accomulate more problem

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:35, by master

    dance according to the tune
    hahaaaa
    say waaaaaaaaaii
    say alroooooooob

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:51, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Honestly, some Journalists, writers, bloggers, news agencies are become part of tribes’ issues too. I.E, in Jonglei ST. where John Alier, Philip Thon Aleu, Jacob Aciek, etc report. These people don’t report honestly within sub-tribes of Dinka. They always sided with Dinka Bor (Bor County)& discriminated these sub-tribes:Dinka Paweny, Atar Dinka, Hol Dinka, Nyarweng Dinka, Hol Dinka, Twi Dinka,et

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:52, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Murle tribe is not always being favor by Journalists. Which is not fair. Other tribes in region too do cause problems to Murle. I like freedom of speech but unethical reporting wouldn’t allow people to truth freedom of speech or expression. Many journalists are deceiving themselves. Others are always favor their leaders & tribes. I hope journalists and other writers should evaluate themselves too.

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:52, by 4Justice

    One day a nutcase will say enough is enough and start shooting these useless miscreants, starting with Mr Big Idiot Salva, the man is a complete vegetative state.

    repondre message

    • 21 January 2013 06:54, by 4Justice

      in a complete vegetative state

      repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 06:53, by JohnGarangFreedom

    Correction: "trust not truth".

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 08:33, by wang

    Wow! Kiir is actually wining a battle against Journalists in South. Lives in fears which mean that they will soon give up saying shits about Mr. President, well-done Kiir you have won the game and I like the article title anyway.

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 09:16, by master

    to be slave of arab/ jalaba better than to be slave of dinka
    lol

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 14:46, by Mack

    A press man and media man’s mind is a soft weapon and once you misuse it as a hard one against a system that doesn’t tolerate criticism, you got silenced. Some of our journalists are novice so that they don’t know how to criticize constructively, hence endangering their profession and in some case, their lives.
    I advise my brothers and sisters in the media to be cautious.

    repondre message

  • 21 January 2013 15:10, by Mapuor

    South Sudan should be free from embarrassments by some reckless security agents.Freedom of expression never dies even if you kill people,however,any killing should not be attributed to writing against the government without enough evidence.South Sudan is indeed swallowing in the ocean of corruption,nepotism,favoritism and savagery

    repondre message

  • 20 February 2013 15:25, by dennishobson

    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know deck de piscina |deck modular how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand

    repondre message

  • 18 March 2013 00:30, by Thom

    Great take on an increasing problem, I think I like your take and it’s time more people looked at problems like this and tried to think clearly. Cheers! Orlando SEO

    repondre message

  • 21 May 2013 02:55, by jason

    For the most furniture part, i am in agreement bean bag chairs with what you wrote sofa. It’s certainly reading what others have to say on the subject chairs matter.bean bag nerd

    repondre message

  • 20 June 2013 15:00, by aqibarif74

    You could comment on the features of the blog. You may file it’s nifty. Your blog experiment would raise your jv partners.
    best human growth hormone

    repondre message

  • 21 June 2013 16:53, by aqibarif74

    You should write about the clearness on the blog. You can list it’s intriguing. Your blog impression may build up your acquaintances.
    advertising agencies

    repondre message

  • 23 June 2013 05:54, by piterbaron

    I am happy to found such useful and intresting post which is written in well maner.I really increased my knowledge after read your post which will be beneficial for me >> Tas Branded || batik sarimbit muslim

    repondre message

  • 28 June 2013 12:05, by aqibarif74

    You should post on the readability for the blog. You can draft it’s practical. Your blog details/features might build up your resellers. Guaranteed Return Investments

    repondre message

Comment on this article


 
 

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.


Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis


How pursuit of good life dominates ethical conscience in Africa 2014-07-27 05:03:47 By Francis Ayul Yuar July 26, 2014 - Looking at the African Continent, my country in particular within this critical time of post independence political and ethnic’s violence, one’s mind wondered (...)

2015 elections are not a priority for Sudanese 2014-07-23 04:35:55 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman July 22, 2014 - This article comes against the backdrop of the news that reported the announcement of the National Elections Commission (NEC) that it had prepared the (...)

Bashir rests assured laden-burden on the Sudanese people’s shoulders 2014-07-14 06:09:16 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman July 13, 2014 - Omer al-Bashir believes that his continuing in power better protects him from tracking and prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He clings (...)


MORE








Latest Press Releases


Memory, healing and transformation in South Sudan 2014-07-23 05:55:08 Memory, Healing and Transformation in South Sudan A Working Paper by David K. Deng July 2014 Contents Introduction 1 What is memorialization? 2 Timing 2 Risks 3 Principles 3 Integrity 3 (...)

South Sudan: Independence Day marred by ongoing war crimes and looming famine 2014-07-09 01:39:56 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE 8 July 2014 South Sudan: Independence Day marred by ongoing war crimes and looming famine · Both sides to the conflict committing war crimes and crimes (...)

UN urged to probe alleged cover-ups and manipulations by its mission in Darfur 2014-06-26 05:40:52 Strengthen Peacekeeping Mission’s Rights Reporting, Civilian Protection (New York, June 25, 2014) – The United Nations secretary-general should investigate alleged cover-ups and manipulation of (...)


MORE

Copyright © 2003-2014 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.