July 20, 2019 (NAIROBI) – South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) has detained Michael Christopher, the editor-in-chief of the Arabic language daily newspaper Al Watan, without charge since July 17, 2019, said Human Rights Watch in a statement released on Saturday.
Christopher had been banned from leaving the country after blaming him for publishing articles critical to the government of President Salva Kiir.
In January and March 2019 he had troubles with the authorities in Juba for supporting the protest movement in Sudan against the ousted President Omer al-Bashir, as his daily was suspended for a month to publish him.
Human Rights Watch denounced the continued violation of press freedom in South Sudan and called for his release.
“The arbitrary detention of Michael Christopher is the latest brazen attack against freedom of the press in South Sudan,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately release him or charge him with a recognized criminal offence.”
Christopher’s detention is seen as a blatant breach of the revitalized peace agreement by the press community in Juba.
NSS officers arrested Christopher at the Juba International Airport on July 15 and forced him off the plane before leaving the country.
After confiscating his passport, he was asked to report to the NSS headquarters where he was arrested on the afternoon of July 17.
Harassment and detention of journalists is a common practice by security services in South Sudan.
“The (security) agency has broad powers of surveillance, arrest, and detention, and has embedded officers in some newspaper offices, leading to a growing climate of self-censorship,” said HRW.