Mohammed Arkou has been held for two weeks without charge. (SRS)
Mohammed Arkou has been held for two weeks without charge. (SRS)

Sudan: Radio journalist held in Juba without charge

New York, May 26, 2011–The government of Southern Sudan must immediately release radio reporter Mohamad Arkou, who has been in detention for 15 days with no official charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Security agents arrested Arkou, a reporter with the U.S.-backed Sudan Radio Service and the Darfur News and Information Service, on May 11 in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr-el Ghazal State in southern Sudan, the Sudan Radio Service reported.

Plainclothes security officials accused Arkou of taking photographs at a May 11 swearing-in ceremony of local officials without a permit, Sudan Radio Service Program Advisor Charles Haskins told CPJ. Authorities in Wau also allege that the radio journalist was found with various spellings of his name on different identity papers, Western Bahr-el Ghazal State Minister of Information Sabit Baptist told CPJ. Also, the reporter had not followed state procedure and reported to the information minister’s office, he added.

“The government of Southern Sudan must release Mohamad Arkou immediately,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Covering an official public ceremony is not a crime.”

At the request of members of the Sudan Radio Service, the governor of Western Bahr-el Ghazal State, Rizik Zakaria, agreed to deport Arkou from Wau to Juba, the capital city of the semi-autonomous region of southern Sudan, according to his colleagues. Upon arriving in Juba on Wednesday, security operatives took Arkou into detention, the Sudan Radio Service Chief of Party Jon Newstrom said.

Arkou, a member of the Fur tribe from western Sudan, reported on humanitarian and development issues for the radio service. He was assigned to cover the activities of the ethnic Fur people in Wau, Sudan Radio Service reporters told CPJ. The service broadcasts news and drama programs in four languages found in western Sudan: Arabic, Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit, as part of their Darfur News and Information Service.

A 22-year long civil war between north and south Sudan ended in 2005 with a peace agreement whereby southern Sudan voted for succession in 2011. South Sudan is expected to become Africa’s newest country in July 2011. In 2003, another civil war broke out in western Sudan between the government and various Darfur rebel groups who accused the government of marginalization.