Ngor Garang, the editor of the Destiny newspaper and Dengdit Ayok, the paper’s deputy editor, have been freed after being detained for two weeks by government security in South Sudan. The two journalists were imprioned for publishing an October 26 article critical of President Salva Kiir’s daughter. Garang and Ayok were released on November 19; the Destiny article that had led to their detainment had criticized the president for letting his daughter marry an Ethiopian. Ayok had written that, by giving his daughter to an “alien,” Presidnet Kiir had “stained his patriotism.”
Internal Security Chief Akol Kur had accused the two journalists of publishing “illicit news” that had “stained the privacy” of President Kiir. Ayok has said that he was beaten while in prison after being arrested on November 5, and that he was only fed once a day. There were about 30 others in the prison, who had been imprisoned for crimes including terrorism and cattle rustling.
The Destiny news paper has been forced to shut down following Garang’s and Ayok’s arrests and it is uncertain when it might be able to publish again, if at all. But Ayok — who says that no charges have been filed against him and that he was released without warning — says that he still stands by his controversial article:
“I didn’t break the law. My article was complying with the law. We have the only law which is the supreme law of the land. That is the transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan. The press bill is not yet passed and even the security bill is not yet passed.”
The press bill in question is meant to govern media in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. A draft of the bill has been submitted to parliament but has yet to be voted on. The detention of Garang and Ayok highlights why passing such a law in South Sudan, and as quickly as possible, is of paramount importance.
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Free South Sudanese Journalists Garang and Ayok
Photo by Al Jazeera English