Three journalists held, radio station shut in South Sudan

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Activist Bol said the incident amounted to "an attack" on media freedom.

Photo credit: File | Fotosearch

Security officials briefly detained three journalists in South Sudan and shut down their radio station Friday in connection with a demonstration planned by activists next week, a rights group and a media union said.

A coalition of civil society groups has urged citizens to hold nationwide protests on Monday, in defiance of the authorities, and called on the country's leadership to step down.

Security officials stormed the compound of Jonglei FM, an independent radio station in eastern Jonglei state, and took three senior journalists, into custody, before confiscating their phones and closing down their operations, the head of a local rights group said.

"They took three staff of this radio station; one is the station manager, another is the programme manager and the other one is the editor-in-chief", said Bol Deng Bol, executive director of Intrepid South Sudan.

Patrick Oyet, the chairman of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS), told AFP the detainees were released later in the day but the radio station remained inoperational.

The security officers had suspected the station wanted to "air something to do with the call by the people's coalition for protest", said Patrick.

"This is a wrong procedure and as UJOSS we really condemn this procedure the security have taken," said Patrick.

Activist Bol said the incident amounted to "an attack" on media freedom.

"We get all information through radio stations, this is the main means for people to be served with information they want. So attacking this media house, shutting them down is an attack that we condemn," Bol said.

Truce sorely tested 

There was no immediate comment on the incident from security officials.

News of the detentions came only weeks after two prominent activists were arrested for joining a call by the People's Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) urging a peaceful public uprising to seek political change.

Earlier this month the PCCA issued a declaration saying they have "had enough" after 10 years of independence marked by armed conflict, escalating insecurity, hunger and political instability.  

South Sudan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries by press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which said that ten journalists had lost their lives in the country since 2014.

The world's newest nation has struggled with civil war, famine and chronic political and economic crisis since celebrating its hard-fought independence from Sudan in 2011.

The 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between former foes Kiir and Machar was just the latest accord signed by the two men whose rivalry ignited a brutal civil war that cost the lives of almost 400,000 people.

Their truce still largely holds but it is being sorely tested, as politicians bicker over power and promises for peace go unmet.