DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH: ‘MUDSLINGING’ BETWEEN THE MEDIA AND SOUTH SUDAN GOVERNMENT


Sudan and South Sudan's Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul speaks during the memorial service of outspoken columnist Diing Chan Awuol, better known by his pen name Isaiah Abraham, three months after his assassination, in Juba, South Sudan, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Hereward Holland

Sudan and South Sudan’s Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul speaks during the memorial service of outspoken columnist Diing Chan Awuol, better known by his pen name Isaiah Abraham, three months after his assassination, in Juba, South Sudan, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Hereward Holland

Government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the investigation into Awuol’s assassination was ongoing and rejected Biar and Ngong’s harassment claims. “It is mud-slinging on the government. It is not true. If it is true, bring it to the police,” Benjamin said.

About his police that he believes in to handle our security cases, we remain suspicious that some of the elements of this law-enforcing organ are behind the terror witch-hunt against our citizens. This is seen in one of my previous conflicts with an ‘investor’, who was shielded by Marial himself and the police to the extent that he got away with my magazine, South Sudan Business Review, a reformed business branch of The Younique Generation Magazine, its first sequel, The Liberator, having been commandeered by the SPLA 4 years before.

This response to Reuters’ journalist by our official government spokesman, who is equally my Minister for Information (and Broadcasting), came to me as shocker news because Hon. Marial blatantly denies what he is not well informed of. He is a news receiver, hence, the minister should not have shrugged off the news, whose source he was yet to investigate.

Therefore, if our physical attacks that were witnessed by public are a mudslinging claims against our own government in which Manyok Biar is working, then I can also conclude that the South Sudan spokesman’s uninformed response, as usual, is a mudslinging in return. Well, if he disputes these true stories that have made us refugees for the second time in our life time, then let him dispute that Isaiah Abraham and Modeses Wiyual Manytap, among others, are not dead. It is just a story of a proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand. I am afraid, very afraid by the way, that with this shamelessly denial, the vice will grow into a not only a virus but a cancer that will engulf the whole media fraternity, then the citizens thereafter.

A poem dedicated to Hon. Marial Benjamin on his appointment as a minister for Information, composed and framed as a gift by the very victim of his denial.

A poem dedicated to Hon. Marial Benjamin on his appointment as a minister for Information, composed and framed as a gift by the very victim of his denial.

I had no problem with Hon. Marial, not until he failed to handle my case of a disputed magazine between me and a South Korean ‘investment broker’ in 2011. It later hurt me to the bone marrow when this foreigner manipulated my government to the level of using our/my own security, in Marial’s terms, the police, to haunt and hunt me out of the court case with an ‘invading inverter investor’ as I termed him in my long discourse on the forcibly aborted case just during the months of our independence in 2011. The story is published on this blog as linked below. Having experienced our relationship spiraling down like this, I almost decided to withdraw a nice poem I dedicated to him when he became a minister. Here the picture and the story goes:

Lead Quote: “What also pains us to let me react hereby is the incessant cries of the
South Sudanese young men and women he (the Marial’s friend) cheated, whom he is now still teasing in public, and who are still jobless and hunting for their
rights robbed using the name of our big people who have nothing to do
with this business and nothing to offer us in compensation. As if that
is not enough, another humiliation is the replacement of all South
Sudanese journalists with 100-percent foreigners, now listed as
editorial team (see the magazine), but whose real qualifications are
nothing short of drivers, some of whom we trained here in Juba,
designers, watchmen and the like, of the Egyptian, Ugandan and Kenyan
origins.” Click this link for a full story, in which I blamed Marial Benjamin who indefinitely stopped me from pursuing my robbed rights in the court of law: https://weakleak.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/save-us-from-inverted-investors/


Full Story from Reuters and other sources: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-sudan-south-media-idUSBRE92D0I720130314


AFTER A LONG FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, SOUTH SUDAN CRACKS DOWN ON DISSENT

By Hereward Holland

JUBA |         Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:22am EDT

JUBA (Reuters) – Three weeks after Christmas, a package wrapped in plastic appeared on John Penn de Ngong’s bed.

Unwrapping the parcel, the South Sudanese poet-cum-activist found a jawbone, a bullet and a death threat signed by a group that called itself the Committee for the Operation to Restore Patriotism in South Sudan – CORPSS.

The handwritten note warned him to stop writing or he would get the same “gift” as his friend Diing Chan Awuol, an outspoken columnist who was shot in the face and killed at his home in the capital Juba in early December.

“We thought it was (the jaw) of a human being that night, but later the national security said it was the jawbone of a dog, and a bullet,” Ngong said, speaking by telephone from a secret location abroad.

This is the 'Isaiah Abraham's new year's gift' with a warning message placed on the pillow on the bed of a tent hotel room of John Penn de Ngong on January 17, 2013. Photo by the National Security/RSS

This is the ‘Isaiah Abraham’s new year’s gift’ with a warning message placed on the pillow on the bed of a tent hotel room of John Penn de Ngong on January 17, 2013. Photo by the National Security/RSS

In July 2011, South Sudan was carved out of Sudan, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of brutal civil war between southern insurgents and the central government in Khartoum.

A year and half on, the ecstasy of long-awaited independence has given way to the punishing task of finally translating the old rebel slogans of freedom and democracy into a blueprint for running a secure and stable state.

There are signs South Sudan is already sliding toward censorship of its nascent media. Dissenting voices like Ngong accuse the young government of clamping down on the very freedoms its leaders spent decades fighting for in the bush.

Before he was killed, Ngong’s friend Awuol – better known by his pen name Isaiah Abraham – had published a piece that called on the government to foster better ties with its old foe Sudan and refrain from supporting rebel groups across the border.

“They see us as a threat,” Ngong said. “It is very disheartening for us, war survivors, to achieve our independence from the government we thought was our oppressor only to find ourselves on the run again.”

HIT LIST

Despite noisy declarations about finding Awuol’s killers, the government turned down assistance of a detective from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government says it has made several arrests, but none of the suspects has been brought before court and Awuol’s family says the investigation has stalled.

After his friend’s death, Ngong started assembling a book of Awuol’s essays and his own barbed poetry.

He claims this, and his other writings, put him on a hit-list of government critics.

FRONT COVER OF NGONG'S POETRY COLLECTION:

FRONT COVER OF NGONG’S POETRY COLLECTION: “Painfully but gainfully, these poems reported themselves to me while I was in hibernation, that is, by the time personalized insecurity and synchronized poverty put me under house arrest. For a project to stop gainfully, it must start painfully. Lo, we go!”

A misspelled threat sent from a CORPSS email address ordered him to “stop your unpatrotic compaigns againist your own country, we can get you! Understand?”

Ngong isn’t alone in his concerns for the direction of the young country, whose relatively peaceful birth was heavily supported by Western powers.

This year, South Sudan slipped 13 places to 124 out of 179 countries on the world press freedom index compiled by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Political commentator Zechariah Manyok Biar, who wrote about the need to track down Awuol’s killers, fled the country in December after a policeman told him he had overheard two men talk about killing him.

He says he traced two cars that were following him; one belonged to the presidential protection unit, the other to a policeman.

“They thought they would restore patriotism by killing people,” Biar said by telephone from an undisclosed location outside the country.

In January, two U.N. human rights officers investigating Biar’s case were arrested and interrogated by South Sudan’s security service for several hours.

Government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the investigation into Awuol’s assassination was ongoing and rejected Biar and Ngong’s harassment claims.

“It is mud-slinging on the government. It is not true. If it is true, bring it to the police,” Benjamin said.

ANIMAL FARM

South Sudan’s minority leader of parliament, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwac, accuses the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – which controls more than 90 percent of the legislature’s seats – of abandoning its stated principles of “unity, equality and progress” once it gained power.

“The SPLM has become like Animal Farm, where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others,” Nyikwac told Reuters, referring to a George Orwell novel that parodied Soviet Russia.

Corruption has become a serious problem. Midway through last year a letter by President Salva Kiir was leaked to the press, in which the president asked some 75 ministers and officials to return $4 billion of stolen government money.

The government acknowledged the letter was genuine. Government spokesman Benjamin said at the time that more than half of the missing funds were from the country’s so-called “durra” scandal, in which a large government purchase of sorghum was allegedly never distributed.

But despite the rise in threats and attacks against dissenting voices, including members of his own party, Nyikwac doesn’t see the crackdown as a deliberate policy from top levels of government.

The problem, he says, is the confusion wrought by myriad security agencies operating with weak or often competing command structures and no law governing their work.

In the dingy reception area of National Security headquarters, staff sit transfixed by American wrestling on television.

Lt. Peter Gatdet of National Security inspects John Penn's room ransacked by a group that called itself CORPSS (Committee for Operation Restore Patriotism in South Sudan) on January 17, 2013, at Kush Resort, Juba, before he fled the country over more threats the weeks after.

Lt. Peter Gatdet of National Security inspects John Penn’s room ransacked by a group that called itself CORPSS (Committee for Operation Restore Patriotism in South Sudan) on January 17, 2013, at Kush Resort, Juba, before he fled the country over more threats the weeks after.

Minister for National Security Oyay Deng Ajak acknowledged there were problems in the security sector but said he hopes to overcome these by the drafting of a National Security policy.

That may not be enough to reform forces that diplomats say operate above the law. Nominally, the directorate for internal security is part of the Ministry of National Security, but in reality it answers to the Presidency, said Jok Madut Jok, head of the Sudd Institute think tank.

“Nobody is held accountable. The disconnect between the policies and what (security organs) do is the main driving force behind the restriction of the press,” he said.

Local journalists say state-sponsored intimidation and impunity are having a profound impact on the media landscape.

One local journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, said the climate of fear since Awuol’s assassination has made most journalists “sing to the tune of national security.”

BITTER PILL

Western donors have been exasperated by the crackdown and by the young country’s decision to shut down its oil industry in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees more than a year ago.

Yet they have shown little appetite for cutting aid because of the risks to regional security were South Sudan to collapse.

One foreign diplomat said donors are likely to swallow the bitter pill of bailing out the government by pledging to pay salaries of teachers and health-workers at an upcoming donor meeting in Washington D.C., despite human rights abuses.

Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists said successful liberation movements like in Eritrea and Zimbabwe had failed to uphold freedom of expression in the past, but foreign governments and aid agencies were often willing to accept that.

“I rarely find instances where donors cut aid because of human rights abuses,” he told Reuters by telephone.

That is unlikely to give much comfort to government critics and their families.

At a memorial service three months after Awoul’s assassination, family members hung a banner demanding the government bring his killers to justice.

“Is this the South Sudan we fought for?” the banner read.

(Editing by Alexander Dziadosz and Peter Graff)

REUTERS: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-sudan-south-media-idUSBRE92D0I720130314

Also published on: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000079272&story_title=Kenya-South-Sudan-cracks-down-on-dissent

Another related story originally by AFP through Global Post: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130302/independence-won-freedom-yet-come-south-sudan

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