South Sudan arrests journalist, newspaper ceases publishing

New York, January 7, 2016—South Sudanese authorities should immediately release journalist Joseph Afandi, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The editor of the newspaper where Afandi worked resigned after Afandi’s arrest, and the newspaper has not published since.

Afandi, an editor for the Arabic daily El Tabeer (“Expression”), was arrested by agents of the National Security Service (NSS) at the newspaper’s offices in the Hai Thuwra district of the capital Juba on December 30 and brought to NSS headquarters, according to news reports. Afandi had recently written an opinion article criticizing the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for failing to protect the lives of its people and for presiding over the civil war that has devastated the country.

No charges against Afandi have been disclosed.

South Sudanese Director General of Information Paul Jacob Kumbo told CPJ he was not aware of the issue and could not comment on Afandi’s arrest or whether he faces any charges.

“No journalist should be jailed for doing his job, which includes the right to publish or broadcast critical observations about public figures and institutions,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “South Sudanese authorities should release Joseph Afandi immediately or disclose any charges against him, and end their harassment of El Tabeer.”

A colleague of Afandi told a reporter for the South Sudanese station Radio Tamazuj that the arresting officers had verbally instructed the newspaper to cease publishing because the government was unhappy with its editorial content. The paper has not appeared since.

The editor of El Tabeer, Wazir Michael, announced at a press conference the same day that he had resigned in an effort to appease the security services and to safeguard the interests of the newspaper. El Tabeer, one of three Arabic-language newspapers in Juba, began publishing in December after authorities shuttered Michael’s previous newspaper, Al-Rai, according to news reports.

CPJ research shows that journalists working in South Sudan are subject to arbitrary arrests and threats. In August, President Salva Kiir publicly threatened kill journalists for reporting “against the country.” In January 2015, five journalists were killed in an ambush on a political convoy in Western Bahr al Ghazal state. CPJ is investigating the killings of two other journalists during 2015 to determine if they were work-related.

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert was modified in paragraph 4 to correct the name of the South Sudan’s director general of information.