New York, August 15, 2022 – South Sudanese authorities must immediately drop all legal charges against journalist Diing Magot and allow her to work without fear of arrest or intimidation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On Monday, South Sudanese authorities released Magot, a freelance journalist, on bail after spending eight days in detention, according to news reports Patrick Oyet, chairman of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) professional group, who spoke to CPJ via the messaging app, and a statement on Twitter by the National Press Club of South Sudana local media association.
Authorities arrested Magot on August 7 while she was on assignment to cover a protest in Juba, the capital, for the US Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America, as CPJ documented at the time. VOA confirmed his release in a statement.
Daniel Justin Boulo Achor, spokesman for the South Sudan National Police, told CPJ by phone on Monday that authorities had charged Magot with crimes related to his alleged participation in a protest. Achor said he could not “remember exactly” the charges.
“The case will be taken to court and they will be summoned for the hearing,” which had not yet been scheduled, Achor said.
“South Sudanese authorities should drop all legal charges against journalist Diing Magot and allow her to work freely and without investigation,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator. “It’s good that journalist Diing Magot has been released, but she should never have been detained for more than a week in the first place.”
Police kept Magot’s phone and recorder, which they seized from the reporter, as “evidence”, Achor said. “They will be presented in court,” Achor said, adding that his phone had been searched.
CPJ could not confirm the charges against Magot, but Oyet told CPJ that at least one falls under Article 82 of South Sudan’s penal code, which relates to “possession of articles for criminal purposes” and is liable to one year in prison, an unspecified fine, or both.
Another person with knowledge of the case who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity because she was unable to comment publicly said Magot and others arrested at the August 7 protest were doing facing at least five charges related to the protest.
In a phone interview with CPJ, Elijah Alier, chief executive of the South Sudan Media Authority, which regulates the country’s media, said Magot is “a journalist, not a protester” and that the Authority of the media is investigating whether it had carried out “journalistic misconduct”.
Alier also said he believes Magot’s case should be handled by the Media Authority and should not go straight to court. He said the Media Authority had informed the relevant authorities, including the police and the judiciary, that Magot’s case should not be dealt with in court, Alier said.
CPJ called Achor back to ask for comment on Alier’s claim, but he did not respond.