ARTICLE 19 and Free Press Unlimited welcome the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
South Sudan has created a legislative framework to silence dissent and political opposition. The Penal Code, particularly the defamation provisions therein, are routinely used to crack down on journalists exposing corruption in the country. For instance, Alfred Angasi, a reporter at the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), was arrested and held arbitrarily for more than two weeks in July 2021 for refusing to read part of a presidential decree during a news programme. In October 2021 Ayuel Chan, a news anchor at the same station, was arrested and detained for airing a story about ‘alleged’ harassment and intimidation of members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) in Warrap State.
The Media Authority Act and the National Security Service Act have also been used to suspend or close critical media outlets, as well as to block access to online media websites, denying the free flow of information. On 27 August 2021, Radio Jonglei, a community radio station, was shut down by the National Security Service (NSS) operatives and three of its journalists – Matuor Mabior Anyang, Ayuen Garang Kur and Deng Gai Deng – were briefly detained and had their mobile phones confiscated for broadcasting a call for anti-corruption protests set to take place on 30 August.
On 30 August 2021, the government shut down the Internet throughout the country ahead of the planned anti-corruption protests, which the armed forces prevented from taking place. On the same day, during President Kiir’s speech at the opening of parliament, an official from South Sudan’s Media Authority confiscated the equipment of three journalists – Al Jazeera reporter Ajou Luol, who was briefly detained as a result of an argument with security agents, as well as Maura Ajak and Yom Manas, who were threatened and physically assaulted for protesting against Luol’s detention.
The National Security Service Act has also been used to violently suppress the right to peaceful assembly. In the aftermath of the June 2020 protests, which resulted in the death of Deng Thon, and injuries of several other protesters, instead of seeking accountability, President Kiir warned that the authorities would respond to further protests with ‘violent resistance’.
ARTICLE 19 and Free Press Unlimited call on the government of South Sudan to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission. We ask the Commission: what can it do to ensure accountability for crimes against journalists and other civil society actors?