1 June 2012

South Sudan: Lakes State Police Commissioner Sacked After Attacks On Press Freedom

Rumbek — The ministry of Interior in the Republic of South Sudan government has sacked Lakes State's Police Commissioner after his arbitrary arrest and harassment of a journalist in Rumbek last month.

Maj-Gen Saed Abdulatif Chawul Lom is alleged by state media to have masterminded the three-night detention of Ayak Dhieu Apar, a female journalist working for state-owned Radio Rumbek FM 98, after she hosted a phone-in debating the merits of the conduct of the police in Lakes State.

Ayak Dhieu Apar's treatment was widely condemned by South Sudanese human rights groups and activists.

A source in South Sudan's Ministry of Interior said that Friday that Maj-Gen Saed had been removed because of his poor handling of the media and the damage his actions had caused the government.

"The new replacement person as police commissioner of Lakes state will be named shortly", said the source who did not want to named.

Apar's arrest, from 14-17 May was conducted without an arrest warrant by officers reportedly operating directly under Saeed's instructions.

Apar was released on bail after the director of the station, Deng Mesheck, had threatened to resign. Mesheck hired six lawyers from Juba, to help his journalist contest the case.

Despite independence last year and self-rule since 2005 South Sudan has no media law.

However, having initially threatened to sue Apar for defamation Lakes State's Police failed to show up to court to file a case against her, apparently after the administration department under Mangar Makeny came under heavy pressure and condemnation from the central government in Juba.

The Lakes State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency Benjamin Makuer Mabor, asked the media to remain calm until the facts of the case were established.

"We have right to protect them and if we found single person who is obstacle, we must remove him or her without objection" said Makuer.

"We know the role of media in this state, they have really made more changes in Lakes state governance. I trust [the] media and I respect their duty in all fields", he added.

Policemen who are against the freedom of press would be removed "one by one", he said, noting that the media also needed to behave ethically.

Lakes State Governor Chol Tong Mayay has declined to comment on the issue.

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