Free press euphoria fading fast in South Sudan

Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:15am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ulf Laessing

JUBA (Reuters) - Dengdit Ayok's dream of a free press in Africa's newest nation dissolved when he was arrested and beaten up after writing about the wedding of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's daughter.

In an article published in October entitled "Let me say so," the reporter criticized Kiir for allowing his daughter to marry an Ethiopian, calling it a shock to the nation.

"Security forces came to our office to detain my editor and then me. I was beaten upon arrival (in prison) and held for two weeks without charge," Dengdit said, sitting in his small office on the outskirts of the capital Juba.

Since then, authorities have suspended his new English-language newspaper Destiny, without giving any indication of when it might be allowed to reopen.

"Journalism is a profession that gives sleepless nights because you can expect arbitrary arrest at any time," Michael Koma, editor-in-chief of the independent Juba Post, wrote in a Christmas column entitled "Still long trek to freedom."

South Sudan became independent last July under a 2005 peace deal and 2011 referendum that aimed to resolve the civil war that started in 1983 by splitting Sudan into two.

Journalists had hoped independence would bring an end to the publishing curbs, closures and arbitrary imprisonment imposed by the northern government in Khartoum. Sudan is considered one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist, ranked 170 out of 179 in the 2011 global press freedom index.

Early signals from Juba have not been good, however.   Continued...