29 April, 2007 (JUBA) – The Juba Post’s manager Hildebrand Bijleveld has suspended four journalists including the Editor-in-Chief Bullen Kenyi and the chief accountant at the main office in Juba on Friday.
The suspended journalists told the Sudan Tribune that Bijleveld broke into the Juba Post petty cash drawer last week and collected the remaining amount of money in the drawer. "For that act, the accountant filed a police case against Hildebrand on Wednesday. He was placed under police custody and released on bail late Thursday and is pending a court hearing. The date for the hearing has not been set" Kenyi said.
Kenyi said that they were served with the suspension letters on Friday signed by Hildebrand after his release on bail. "I think he is trying to keep us away as we are fighting for legal ownership of the company and the newspaper. But I assure the public that Hildebrand will not succeed. The paper is ours and is registered under South Sudan regulations. The support provided by the donors is not for Hildebrand as an individual, but is to support the newspaper as it tries to its best to be different from the other newspapers and strives for independence in the content of articles published," Kenyi said.
"I want to inform the government of South Sudan, churches and the public that the paper [The Juba Post] is now in crisis so that you know," he added.
Kenyi said that the Juba Post has filed a complaint with the paper’s supporters (NCA, ICCO and UNDP) regarding discrimination against the staff by Hildebrand since the money from the donors is channeled through him.
"Hildebrand acts as if the donor’s money is coming from his pocket to control the paper and its staff. Since the paper was established in 2005, there is no car to facilitate the activities of the reporters and compensation of the staff is very low compared to their responsibilities. The Editor-in-Chief is paid 500 US dollars, the Chairman of the Board of directors who is also the General Manager of Juba Media and Juba Post is also paid the same. Even the coordinating editor in Khartoum Charles Luganya is also paid the same amount of money despite the fact that he works more than twelve hours on Wednesdays. We requested a merit increase for this year but Hildebrand rejected as he controls the money," Kenyi told Sudan Tribune.
According to the chief accountant Sarah Sadia Paul, Hildebrand requested her and the Chairman of the Board Charles Rihan settle the problem but she declined. “I want to receive the entire financial document in front of me as my witness. It is possible that he has performed forgery in the documents," She said.
Hildebrand was not available for comment and it is not clear if there is going to be a newspaper edition for this week since the journalists are discouraged following the suspension of the Editor-in Chief and their fellow coworkers.
Text of the Letter to GOSS and Central Equatoria State ministries for Information
The senior staff of the above project would like to bring to your notice some high corruption being played by a man called Hildebrand Bijleveld, who has made himself General Manager of the Project. He is in Juba to change the ownership of the project from Southern Sudanese ownership to his ownership.
About the project: As you already have copies of our complain letter to our donors concerning Hildebrand, we will only give you brief account of the registration of this project. The Juba Post Newspaper was registered with the National Press Council in Khartoum, under the ownership of Southern Sudanese, with the following hierarchy:
Charles Rihan Surur – Chairman, Board of Directors
Bullen Kenyi Yatta – Editor in Chief
Charles Luganya Ronyo – D/Editor in Chief
Apollonia Adong Matia – Editorial Secretary
Patrick Lemi Yottama – D/Editorial Secretary
Hildebrand has no position in the hierarchy of the Juba Media/Post Project. He owns a media project known as Sudmedia in Khartoum. His only relationship with the Juba Media/Post is that our donors (ICCO, NCA, UNDP etc) send the projects funds through Sudmedia, where he is the General Manager. And also the fact that he works with NCA and UNDP as consultant. He took the opportunity of the funding coming through Sudmedia, to take full control of the Juba Media/Post project.
He took over finance control and editorial work, and run the project without Board of Management. The aim of the project is to build the capacities of the Southern Sudanese journalists to use the media to promote sustainable peace in Southern Sudan, and Sudan as a whole.
Given the political background of the regimes in the Sudan since 1956, prior to the CPA, the paper was, and perhaps still is, seen as a revolutionary paper. Accordingly three of our journalists: Charles Luganya, Joseph Aligo, and Anjelo Wello were arrested and detained in Khartoum in 2005.
They were released after two days on bail through Charles Rihan, and also as a result of pressure on the government by other journalists and human rights activists all over the world.
Our reporters in Juba were also threatened by security forces not to operate. But with the signing of the CPA, the enactment of the Sudanese constitutions which grants the freedom of expression, we are able to exercise our profession in peace.
The project, Juba Media which is largely supported by three NGOs; ICCO, (a church based organization in Holland), NCA, and UNDP, is registered under two Southern Sudanese; Charles Rihan Surur and Anjelina Michael.
This is because the law required that in order for a person to start a Newspaper, that person should first have a company, so that the News paper will be under a registered company.
For that reason Juba Media Company was registered under Rihan and Anjelina, and the Juba Post Newspaper operates under the Juba Media Company.
The supporting NGOS give their support according to the project proposals, such as training, inserts etc. The project, from 2006, developed to such an extend that it is able to pay its staff salaries and services. Juba Media is yet to be registered with the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), and start paying the due taxes.
Hildebrand, who has unlawfully made himself the General Manager and Finance Manager of Juba Media/Post, and the Editor in Chief of the Juba Post Newspaper, is currently in Juba determined to usurp the ownership and the management of the project. Rushing to Juba from Khartoum, infuriated by a complain letter written by Juba Post staff to donors about his manipulative way of management.
Hildebrand declared himself as the owner and General Manager of the Juba Media/Post project, warning "any staff who is opposed to the new ownership arrangement should resign or be dismissed." But Hildebrand does not have any single document giving him the power to control the Juba Media/Post project.
His position up to now is "Technical Advisor to the project." Sensing that his trick is apparent to some of the Senior Staff, he has resorted to work with the new stringers whom he had just recruited while in process of changing the company to himself. The innocent new employees were made to avoid association with the officially registered staff of the project.
He is working under-ground to register the project under the ownership of "Sudmedia". Sudmedia is owned by Hildebrand, and the idea of placing the project under Sudmedia is to let him have a direct control over it.
We are therefore notifying you to intervene and take legal steps to investigate into the exact motives of this man. At the moment he is engaged with a lawyer trying to change the ownership of the Juba Media/Post project from Southern Sudanese ownership to Sudmedia ownership, where he is the General Manager.
He us trying to do this without consultation with those officially registered with the National Press Council.
He is trying to manipulate the new casual journalists to individually accept and sign certain documents that he could use as a prove that the Juba Post Staff accepted the change of the ownership of the project.
He has sidestepped the principles of the profession, by threatening the stringers not to access the web-site of the project, and not to release any information concerning anything like corruption in the project.
This is no longer journalism! We wonder what would be the aim of the paper under the new ownership arrangement! The reason is because the website is clear about the ownership of the project.
The paper at the moment has clear policy; promotion of values and principles that foster sustainable peace in Sudan, besides other necessary information for development and entertainment.
We do not accept Hildebrand’s continuous manipulations to Southern Sudanese in their own project. He has given bad image of the Juba Post on issues like bad administrative management, fraud in financial management, and biased editorial policy. He is not transparent with donor funds, he lies to the donors and does not pay well the local staff. The local staff are denied such rights as medical fund, which he makes appear in his financial report to the donors.
There are other issues which threaten security, like incitement of hatred among the local staff and foreigners. The nature of complain of the Juba Post staff to the donors is based on legal and administrative issues and had matters to do with corruption and injustice, but not political. We therefore request your intervention as the concerned authorities. Documents of registration and other legal concerns of the project are available. Hope for your quick response.