Home Main Story South Sudan: Nine Journalists Detained for Covering SPLM-IO Press Conference

South Sudan: Nine Journalists Detained for Covering SPLM-IO Press Conference

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National Security Service (NSS) officers at the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) on Monday detained nine journalists for more than two hours after they covered a press conference by SPLM-IO lawmakers at the Freedom Hall where parliament holds sittings.

The SPLM-IO parliamentary caucus boycotted Monday’s sitting over what they described as the alteration of the Political Parties Act Amendment Bill 2022 that was passed in late May.

The nine journalists entered the hall to get a reaction from the chairperson of the information committee, John Aganny Deng, after covering the SPLM-IO press conference but the security agents intercepted them and took away their identity cards.

One of the reporters who spoke to Radio Tamazuj on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal said that after being ordered to surrender their IDs, the Journalists walked to Aganny who was seated among other lawmakers, and asked him to resolve the altercation with the security personnel.

“He told us (reporters) to be patient saying the issue is simple and will be solved,” he said. “However, one of the NSS officers at the parliament collected our press IDs and ordered us to switch off our phones and put them in a bag. He (officer) disappeared but shortly returned and ordered us to stand up and quietly walk out of the hall.”

According to the reporter, Speaker Jemma Nunu Kumba adjourned the house after being told that the SPLM-IO members had boycotted the sitting.

“She however said the reason for the SPLM-IO boycott was not genuine as the bill was passed with majority consensus. She also noted that the issue will now be forwarded to the presidency to resolve arguing that the house cannot again re-table the bill for deliberation after its passing adding that the parliament does not have that mandate to return the bill for debate,” he said.

The reporter said after the adjournment, John Aganny and the NSS operatives approached them and said the SPLM-IO press conference was illegal.

“They came to us the journalists and Aganny told us that the SPLM-IO press briefing the journalists attended outside the hall was in contravention to the house conduct of business regulation that the SPLM-IO members did not get authorization to speak to the media at the premises of the parliament when members of parliament had a sitting,” he said. “He (Aganny) said the media was not invited to cover that side-line press conference which is a protest for that matter but the media should focus only on the sitting in the house.”

He added: “He (Aganny) then told us to delete whatever we had recorded from the press briefing by First Deputy Speaker Oyet Nathaniel on behalf of the SPLM-IO parliamentarians.”

According to another reporter, the security officers then ordered them to delete all the audios from their recorders which they had to comply with to get their press identity cards back and be let to go.

“One of the NSS officers was rude and questioned whether we were invited officially to come and cover the parliament. He earlier on told us that we were under detention and if we do not cooperate, he will do something to us that we will regret,” he said. “We were detained from around 11:30 am up to 1 pm that was when we were finally left to leave Freedom Hall when most of the parliamentarians had left.”

The SPLM-IO in their press statement issued to the media earlier before their arrest stated that Transitional National Legislative Assembly in its ordinary sitting No.9/2022 passed the Political Parties Act, Amendment Bill, 2022 without consensus and in contravention of the revitalized peace agreement.

Consequently, the SPLM-IO said they and the Other Political Parties (OPP) parliamentary caucuses wrote to Speaker Kumba on 31 May objecting to the alterations in the Bill by the house but the speaker did not respond to their letter. The lack of a reply from the speaker prompted the SPLM-IO parliamentary caucuses to stage a boycott of sitting, the opposition outfit said.

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