The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is dismayed at the continued detention of South Sudanese journalist, Alfred Taban who has been held by the country’s security service for about 12 days without charges.
On July 16, 2016, agents of the National Security Service (NSS) arrested Alfred Taban, Editor-in-Chief of Juba Monitor, an independent English language daily newspaper in South Sudan. The security service accused the journalist of inciting violence, and consequently shutdown the Juba Monitor on the same day.
Though no formal charges have been brought against Taban, the journalist’s arrest is reported to be linked to an opinion piece he wrote a day earlier (July 15) in which he called for the removal of President Salva Kiir and the First-Vice President Dr. Riek Machar. The publication also accused both leaders of failure to work together to improve the security situation in South Sudan.
The NSS however allowed the Juba Monitor to resume publication on July 19, 2016.
While AFEX commends the decision of the NSS to allow the newspaper to reopen, we call on the authorities in South Sudan to release Alfred Taban, who has been in detention without charge for close to two weeks. The detention is arbitrary and unlawful as it violates Article 19 Section 4 of the South Sudan’s Constitution of 2011 which limits pre-trial detention to 24 hours.
Several local and international free expression and human rights organisations including AFEX have called on the South Sudanese authorities to unconditionally release Alfred Taban but to no avail.
AFEX is once again appealing to President Salva Kiir and the NSS to release Alfred Taban.
Who is Alfred Taban?
Alfred Taban Logune is a prominent South Sudanese journalist and founder of the Juba Monitor newspaper. He is also a founding member and the current Chairman of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), a local media rights advocacy group established in 2003. Taban has been a tireless advocate for freedom of expression in both Sudan and South Sudan regardless of the repressive and difficult media environment.
He was a powerful voice in the discourse that led to the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which led to the birth of South Sudan.
Alfred Taban worked as a Reporter for BBC World Service in Sudan from the 1980s to the 1990s. He set up the Khartoum Monitor, the first independent English language daily in Sudan in 2000. Following the independence of South Sudan, Taban moved to Juba, the capital city of South Sudan where he established the Juba Monitor newspaper.
Alfred Taban’s tremendous contributions to the media, democracy and freedom of expression in both Sudan and South Sudan have gained international recognition. Taban received two international awards from the British Parliament in 2005 and he was awarded the National Endowment for Democracy Award by President, George W. Bush in 2006. He also testified in the US Congress on the press freedom situation in Sudan during the civil war.
The arrest and arbitrary detention of the outspoken media rights advocate, Alfred Taban is unfortunate and we urge the South Sudanese government to release him. Putting a journalist behind bars for close to two weeks without trial for expressing his opinion breaches the provisions of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).