The South Sudan National Security Service (NSS) on Friday released journalist Ayuel Chan after spending a day in detention.
On Thursday, Ayuel Chan, a news anchor at the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), was arrested in Juba and was later confirmed to be held at the national security agency’s main detentions centre in the capital Juba, known locally as “Blue House”.
Speaking after being released on Friday, Ayuel said he was detained for airing a story earlier this week about “alleged” harassment and intimidation of members of the SPLM-IO in Warrap State by Governor Aleu Ayieny Aleu.
On Monday, SPLM-IO members in the transitional government from Warrap State held a press conference in Juba and threatened to pull out from the state government citing mistreatment and harassment by the state governor, who is a senior member of the SPLM party led by President Salva Kiir.
“On Monday, SPLM-IO MPs from Warrap state held a press statement in the office of the First Vice President, Riek Machar accusing the state governor of something he allegedly did in the state. So, I covered the press conference because I have been attached to the office of the First Vice President since last year. After I covered the story, I took it to SSBC and it was aired on Tuesday, “he said.
He added, “After the news report had been aired on Tuesday night, I received a phone call from the National Security at SSBC and SSBC management questioning me why I aired the story and that the story brought them a lot of problems.”
According to the journalist, security officials said the news story was critical of the government.
Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, Mr. Patrick Oyet Charles, the President of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS), said: “We welcome the release of the journalist; it is unfortunate that he was arrested. It is our understanding that the issue was administrative.”
Oyet further said his office will continue to engage with the management of SSBC to address the issues of arrests of journalists by the security officials at the station.
“We are looking forward to having a proper meeting with the administration of SSBC to meet and have a discussion to ensure that administrative issues are handled administratively because we have seen a trend in which some issues that are supposed to be handled administratively, security authorities get involved. We blame most of the media houses for that because before the issues go to the security operatives, they should be handled between the media house and the journalists,” he said.
Last month, Alfred Angasi Dominic, a news anchor at SSBC, was suspended indefinitely after being released from the National Security Service detention. He was accused of refusing to read news containing a presidential announcement.
Members of the press in the world’s youngest nation have suffered through years of a deteriorating media environment, including censorship, intimidation and violence. Government institutions frequently interfered in editorial matters and called journalists in for questioning.
In April, Reporters Without Borders released the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. South Sudan ranked number 139 out of 180 countries, dropping one spot from last year’s ranking of 138.
Report by: Radio Tamazuj