South Sudan journalist Diing Magot, who was arrested while covering protest for Voice of America in Juba on August 7, 2022. (NPC-South Sudan)

South Sudan journalist Diing Magot arrested while covering protest for Voice of America

New York, August 9, 2022 — South Sudanese authorities should immediately release journalist Diing Magot and ensure reporters covering protests and other events of public interest can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On Sunday, August 7, South Sudanese authorities arrested Magot, a freelance reporter on assignment for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America, while she covered a protest over inflation and other economic issues in Juba, the capital, according to media reports and statements by VOA and the local media groups the Union of Journalists of South Sudan and the South Sudan National Press Club, which CPJ reviewed.

Police detained Magot, who was reporting for VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program, alongside several protesters; she was held at the Malakia Police Station and then transferred to Juba Central Prison, according to those sources and UJOSS President Patrick Oyet, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Daniel Justin Boulo Achor, a spokesperson for South Sudan’s national police, told CPJ by phone on Tuesday evening that Magot had “not yet” been charged and that she remained under investigation. He said the country’s attorney general had granted police permission to hold Magot for an additional three days, beyond the initial 24 hours afforded under the law.

“South Sudanese authorities should immediately release journalist Diing Magot and ensure reporters across the country can work without the threat of arrest,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi. “Journalists in South Sudan should not need to worry that they may be detained for simply doing their work to inform the public about what is happening in their country.”

The VOA statement said that Magot did not have her press identification with her at the time of arrest, and the South Sudan Media Authority, the country’s media regulator, “demanded a letter from VOA, confirming she is our freelance journalist and she was there on assignment.” 

The statement said that the broadcaster had provided a letter, but Magot was not released.

A team of lawyers has been assembled to represent Magot, but authorities have not allowed them to meet with her, according to the UJOSS statement.

When CPJ called South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei for comment, he referred CPJ to the South Sudan Media Authority. CPJ called the authority’s managing director, Elijah Alier, and director-general for information and media compliance, Sapana Abuyi, but the calls did not connect.