DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) and the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) are calling for the immediate release of renowned journalist and editor Alfred Taban. The Editor-in-Chief of the Juba Monitor was arrested by agents of the National Security Services in the afternoon of 16 July and taken to an unknown location. Mr Taban is known to be in poor health.
It is believed the arrest is connected to an article recently published in the Juba Monitor on a recent communiqué by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The IGAD Council of Ministers convened its 56th extraordinary session on Monday in response to the recent surge in violence in the South Sudanese capital.
“South Sudanese authorities should immediately release Mr Taban, and ensure that he has not been subjected to ill treatment and has been given access the medical care he needs,” said Hassan Shire of DefendDefenders. “This latest arrest is yet another unacceptable attack on free speech at a time when the country needs it most.”
Journalists face extremely precarious working conditions in South Sudan, and are regularly targeted through intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and, at times, extrajudicial killings.
On 11 July, journalist John Gatluak Manguet Nhial was shot dead by armed men at the Terrain Hotel in Juba, in what is believed to be an ethnically motivated killing. According to his family’s representative, he and his colleagues were attacked at their work place, but only he was shot dead after being identified as a member of the Nuer tribe.
Fighting broke out in Juba on 7 July, just over two months after Vice-President and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army – In Opposition leader Riek Machar returned to Juba to form the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). Since the formation of the TGoNU on 29 April 2016, over 10 civil society activists and journalists have reportedly been arrested, and the latest surge in violence has forced many into hiding.
DefendDefenders and CEPO call upon the government of South Sudan and its National Security Services to immediately and unconditionally release Alfred Taban, and to launch thorough, transparent and swift investigations into the targeting of journalists by agents of the South Sudanese security branch.