Nairobi, March 8, 2016 – South Sudanese authorities should immediately launch an independent, thorough investigation into the abduction and beating of journalist Joseph Afandi and punish those responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Colleagues found Afandi dumped near a graveyard in Juba today, beaten and bearing marks of torture, according to press accounts.
Witnesses told South Sudan’s Eye Radio that men in a white sport utility vehicle without number plates abducted Afandi in Juba on March 4. Friends and family heard nothing from him until today, when he phoned his colleague Ibrahim Awuol to tell him he had been beaten and dumped by a graveyard in Juba, Awuol told Eye Radio. Edward Terso, secretary general of South Sudan’s Union of Journalists, told Juba’s Radio Bakhita that the journalist had been badly beaten and burned. Images published in South Sudan’s media showed Afandi, who has been admitted to hospital for treatment, with multiple burn marks on his thighs.
Afandi worked as an editor at the daily El Tabeer before National Security Service agents arrested him in Juba on December 30, 2015, and verbally instructed other employees to stop publishing the newspaper. Authorities released the editor without charge on February 19, after nearly two months of incommunicado detention, according to the rights organization Amnesty International. The reasons for his detention were unclear, but according to the rights organization, Afandi had published an article in El Tabeer on December 23 criticizing the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the ruling party.
CPJ research shows that journalists working in South Sudan are subject to arbitrary arrests and threats. In August, President Salva Kiir publicly threatened to kill journalists for reporting “against the country.”
“The violence done to Joseph Afandi is what happens when national leaders threaten to kill critical journalists,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “President Salva Kiir needs to take back his reckless remarks and issue a clear and unequivocal statement condemning attacks on journalists and vowing to credibly investigate this savage assault and bring those responsible to justice.”