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South Sudan rebukes media coverage of president Kiir’s family

March 31, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s government on Monday lashed out at media coverage of recent allegations about president Salva Kiir’s family, claiming that the negative headlines could harm the country’s image.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (Photo: AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

A Kenyan daily newspaper reported on Friday that the president’s 23-year-old son, Manut Kiir Mayardit, was briefly detained by police after he allegedly assaulted his sister while drunk.

The president is reported to have responded by convening a meeting during which he cautioned his family to refrain from any behaviour that would attract the public’s attention.

“I have noticed that some sections of the media and commentators have decided to focus mainly on the private life of the president and his family,” Thiik Giir, an in-law of president Kiir, said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Monday.

“This is a clear violation of our constitution, particularly provision of article 22, which states that the privacy of all persons shall be inviolable; no person shall be subjected to interference with his or her private life, family, home or correspondence, save in accordance with the law, yet the media have continued to fail in this area,” he said.

Giir said the media should concentrate on public matters, specifically those issues which relate to the work of the president as head of state, instead of “invading his privacy” and his family life.

“President Salva Kiir is a humble leader the media and some commentators have continued to invade his privacy without consequences, but if it were other countries like Sudan, the people (journalists) who do this would have definitely paid for it,” he said.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 in part because of the lack of freedom shown towards the press and individuals in the north. Human rights groups say that the former rebels who govern South Sudan have sometimes failed to allow for freedoms they claim to have fought for during a more than two-decades-long civil war with the north.

The relative claimed some sections of the media were taking advantage of Kiir’s humility “because they know he wants a common understanding between the government, media and the opposition, but failed to know that criticism should be objective to avoid depicting this nation badly to outsiders”.

The comments from Kiir’s relative come 14 weeks into a conflict between troops loyal to the government and rebels who have split from the ruling SPLM and the South Sudanese army (SPLA).

Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny said he was not aware of the reported meeting which the president had convened over the weekend with his family members after media reports in Kenya that police authorities last week arrested the president’s son after his mother alerted them to his violent behaviour.

“I personally spoke to the family members of the president in Kenya where the alleged incident took place, but they told me that they were not aware of the incident. I also asked the president whether he held any meeting with the family members but also he said he did not hold any meeting,” Ateny told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

Ateny said the president’s son and nephew came to Juba on Sunday but did not have a chance to officially meet the president, although they greeted each other informally as they live together in the same house.