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South Sudan journalists body reacts amid rumors of arrest, detention by security operatives

JUBA – South Sudan’s journalist body has denied claims that some of the country’s journalists are being detained, missing or fled to neighboring Kenya after rumors that security operatives were conducting manhunt to identify a journalist who allegedly filmed the president while in an uncomfortable situation.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit in a 39-second video clip appeared to be wetting on himself in public while the country’s national anthem was being played. This was during the opening ceremony of the first phase of the Juba-Bahr el Ghazal highway early this week.

A journalist working for the state-run television SSBC told Sudans Post on Thursday that security forces were conducting search to identify the allegedly perpetrator, and were being asked by security operatives attached to the office of the president to help identify him.

“Some of our colleagues from the SSBC were being forced to help identify the wrongdoer and this is immediately after the video was made public. Even they searched our phones and it appeared that they are still looking for him,” the SSBC journalist who refused to be named said.

The journalist said he has “heard that three of the journalists based in Juba have disappeared” but cannot authenticate as to if what is up to now a rumor is true or is linked to the National Security Service (NSS).

In a statement to Sudans Post this afternoon, the President of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan Oyet Patrick said there is no journalist arrested as of this afternoon and the body was in contact with the security apparatuses to coordinate on the matter.

“But according to our record, as of today or as of now as I speak, there is no journalist who has been arrested, there is no journalist who is in detention, there is no journalist who is in jail and there is no journalist who is missing,” he said.

“We are in communication with various security organs of the country and this is the information that we have and we always check on our colleagues we do not have any journalist missing, arrested or in detention,” he added.

Journalists have told Sudans Post separately that although they cannot confirm if any of their colleagues has been arrested or not, the continued circulation of rumors is causing fears among them, something they say may negatively affect the way they perform their duties.

“I think there are laws in place guiding our work and the alleged involvement of the national security service and the purported arrest of our colleagues is causing fears among our work and this will affect the way we do our work. Any wrongdoing should be dealt with by the law, not by individuals in the security sector,” one journalist said.

Another journalist also reminded the government of its primary responsibility to protect citizens and journalists in particular and called on the presidency “and human rights bodies to take responsibility in protecting the journalists who are currently at risks.”

Another journalist said he cannot rule out if any of his colleagues has been arrested, but said he is investigating if there has been any arrest since the video of the president went public and described the situation of journalists in South Sudan as “unpredictable and dangerous.”


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