JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — South Sudan’s national security service has detained six journalists who work for the country’s national broadcaster, SSBC, the country’s press union said.
Patrick Oyet, who heads the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, said five journalists were detained Tuesday and one on Wednesday.
The arrest appears to be connected to a video of President Salva Kiir, according to Oyet and media rights groups.
The footage, shared widely on social media in December, appeared to show Kiir urinate on himself while at an official engagement, according to The Associated Press. The video quickly cuts away from the shots of the 71-year-old president, the AP reported.
Local station Radio Tamazuj cited an anonymous journalist from the SSBC as saying that the footage came from the public broadcaster, “yet we as SSBC did not broadcast any news related to that video.”
Oyet said the union is seeking details on why the journalists were taken by security forces.
“We have visited some offices of the security and we found out that one of the reasons is actually connected to the … video of the president that was leaked,” Oyet said.
From the information he has so far, Oyet said, “They are basically suspects and they are being investigated. If they are found to not have been the people who sent out the video, they will be set free.”
Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Information Minister, said people should wait to hear the reason for why the media workers are being held.
VOA’s attempts to reach Elijah Alier Kuai, managing director for the South Sudan Media Authority, which regulates the work of journalists, by phone were unsuccessful.
The unnamed SSBC journalist was cited in reports as saying that their colleagues “are not arrested but just taken for formalities of investigations.”
According to the Union of Journalists of South Sudan and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), those detained are control room director Joval Tombe, editor Victor Lado, and camera operator and technicians Mustafa Osman, Jacob Benjamin, Oliver Wani and Cherbek Reuben.
The CPJ on Friday called on authorities to “unconditionally release” the journalists.
The action by South Sudan “matches a pattern of security personnel resorting to arbitrary detention whenever officials deem coverage unfavorable,” CPJ’s Muthoki Mumo said in a statement.
Oyet said he hopes any investigation will be fast, and said that media should act professionally.
“Before you send any material out, not only video whether text or audio, the first thing you ask yourself as a journalist is, ‘Is what I am going to send out good for public consumption? Is it in the public interest?’” Oyet said.
Many people in South Sudan condemned the release of the video and said those who shared it had acted irresponsibly.
Source: Voice of America