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Rights body calls for release of South Sudanese editor

November 28, 2019 (NAIROBI) – South Sudanese authorities should immediately release a journalist who has been arbitrarily detained since November 4, a US-based human rights body said Thursday.

A vendor sells newspapers in the South Sudanese capital, Juba (Photo: Al-Jazeera)

Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said the National Security Service (NSS) arrested and detained Emmanuel Monychol Akop, the managing editor of The Dawn newspaper, after he answered a summons on October 21, 2019 to appear at the security service headquarters in Jebel neighborhood of Juba.

Monychol’s arrest was reportedly linked to an October 15 Facebook posts on the Foreign Affairs minister, Awut Deng Achuil’s dress code.

“Emmanuel Monychol’s detention is just the latest act of harassment by South Sudanese authorities in response to criticism or perceived dissent,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities should immediately release him unless he has been charged with a recognizable offense,” he added.

According to the rights body, the South Sudanese editor’s detention appears to be part of a broader crackdown by South Sudanese authorities to silence criticism by the media, non-governmental groups, opposition parties and national lawmakers.

Since conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, Human Rights Watch observed, the country’s NSS has spread a climate of fear and terror, targeting critics and perceived dissidents with arbitrary arrest and detention and torture and other ill-treatment.

This, it stressed, has led to self-censorship in which activists, journalists, critics of the government, and ordinary people no longer feel safe to speak freely and openly about topics deemed to be controversial.

“South Sudan’s authorities should expedite action on the necessary reforms to curb the security agency’s broad powers and ensure full compliance with existing legal safeguards,” said Segun.

“They should also ensure broad-based, public, and transparent consultations during the review process,” he added.

Last month, South Sudan’s media body revoked the press accreditation of a Canadian journalist working for the Associated Press (AP) over a story she had written.

Since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011, dozens of reporters have been subjected to intimidation, arrest, censorship and violence.

The advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, said at least 10 journalists have been killed since the outbreak of a civil war in the country in December 2013.