Nine journalists working for state-run media have been detained for nearly a week because they did not cover the inauguration of Salva Kiir, president of Sudan’s semi-autonomous south, a media activist and a government source said.
The journalists at the State Southern Sudan Television and a sister radio station had been on strike over pay when the Kiir ceremony took place on May 21, said David de Dau, who runs the Agency for Independent Media in south Sudan.
“They are looking at it from the angle of (the journalists) having sabotaged the inauguration of the president,” Dau said of the national security personnel who he said detained the journalists from the television station this morning.
A government official who requested anonymity confirmed the journalists were detained for not covering the ceremony. In total 12 journalists were detained, but three were subsequently released.
The inauguration was covered by small teams from the government radio and TV stations.
Kiir won the presidential election for South Sudan with nearly 93% of the vote and was inaugurated last Friday in the presence of regional dignitaries.
The elections were a cornerstone of a 2005 north-south peace deal that ended more than 20 years of civil war. Southerners will now vote in a January referendum on whether to secede or remain with northern Sudan.
Analysts and human rights observers will be keeping a watchful eye on the south’s democratic credentials ahead of the referendum, which many believe will result in secession.
Dau said the detained journalists had been harassed.
Earlier this week, two female journalists were released because they had small babies at home; another woman was released because she was ill, Dau said.
“The situation for the media is getting worse. Demarcation is taking place of journalists who are seen to be pro certain ideologies,” Dau said.
Several journalists were arrested and two independent radio stations were raided in the run-up to the elections. The southern parliament has still not passed media bills that would give protection to journalists there, analysts have said.
Journalists have run into problems in north Sudan too. On Tuesday, lawyers for a detained opposition journalist said the man had been charged with terrorism and espionage.
Kiir was present in Khartoum yesterday at the inauguration of Sudanese President Omar Hassam al-Bashir.