June 12, 2014 (JUBA) – A United Nations official told Sudan Tribune he was "invited" and "not summoned" by South Sudanese authorities on Wednesday over an interview aired on Miraya FM.
The UN-sponsored radio, which widely covers South Sudan’s 10 states, broadcast an exclusive interview on Wednesday with Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, in which he explained to the public the outcome of the recent meeting in Addis Ababa between his boss and president Salva Kiir.
"I was never summoned about this interview or any other matter. I was invited to a meeting in the information ministry with the acting director of information, she also invited an official from a security service of the national government and he wished to discuss with me the general methodology followed by Radio Miraya news staff in reporting stories", Joe Contreras, the UMISS head of public information said Friday.
"In the course of the conversation, he did mention his concerns about one specific Radio Miraya report that had aired earlier in the week, but it was not the interview with the spokesperson of Machar," he added.
A senior staff working for the station said Contreras, also the mission’s acting spokesperson, was allegedly questioned over the radio interview.
“Yes, but our chief told them point blank that we are a UN radio and we have to balance our stories professionally…We will continue doing our job in a professional way,” the staff, who preferred anonymity told Sudan Tribune Thursday.
He, however, added that the matter was eventually handled when the UN official firmly stood his ground by defending the independence and professionalism with which they operate the radio service.
But Contreras said Wednesday’s encounter with the security service official was on his "own free will" and was in "no way regarded as a summon".
"I made it clear during the meeting with the security service official that I had come on my own free will and in no way regarded this encounter as a summons or a case of harassment in any way whatsoever," he further clarified.
The spokesperson for the UN mission in the country, Ariane Quentier, separately told Sudan Tribune that Contreras was "invited" and "not summoned" by the information ministry.
South Sudan government has had sour relationship with the UN mission which it accused in the past of allegedly collaborating with the rebel group, an allegation dismissed as baseless by the world body.
The attempt to silence the UN radio is one of a series of warnings the ministry officials have issued to various public as well as independent media outlets not to broadcast or publish views stemming from the rebel group.
A Juba resident who described himself as a fan of the UN radio for its professionalism wondered what could be particular about the Wednesday interview with the rebel leader’s spokesperson when his past interviews were aired without a complaint.
“I have been a regular listener to Miraya FM radio. I heard the interview with James Gatdet Dak yesterday. It was very informative about what happened in Addis Ababa,” he said.
“However, this was not his first interview over Miraya FM radio. The radio played many of his interviews for the last one month. So, I wonder what could have infuriated the government in this particular interview,” he added.
However, UN officials who spoke to Sudan Tribune said they suspected the government was unhappy about a revelation by the rebel leader’s spokesperson that president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was directly involved in the negotiations with Machar during the Addis Ababa meeting on Tuesday.
Dak disclosed that the Ugandan president was seated next to president Kiir during their face-to-face meeting with Machar and that president Museveni was the main speaker negotiating on behalf of president Kiir.
The Ugandan president and the South Sudanese leader have been partners in the six-month old war against the opposition forces.
The rebels have also accused president Museveni of allegedly negatively influencing decisions taken by the South Sudanese president in the peace process.