SSHURSA condemns the arbitrary detention and treatment of Former Bentiu 99 FM Radio journalist Bonifacio Taban Kuich urges SPLA to uphold country’s Constitution and calls upon Unity State government to observe the nation’s fundamental law and also protect Mr. Kuich
Juba, June 3, 2012 (SSNA) — The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy condemns in the strongest terms possible the detention and treatment of the Journalist Bonifacio Taban Kuich. He was arrested and detained on May 31, 2012 by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army overall 4th Division Commander Major General James Gatduel. Taban was a former reporter of Bentiu 99 FM Radio and currently working in Bentiu with the Voice of America (VOA). Taban was called in the afternoon of May 31, 2012 by the Deputy Governor Michael Chiangjiek and when he arrived in the office of the Deputy Governor, the journalist found the Major General Gatduel already there in the Deputy Governor’s office and upon the orders of General Gatduel, Taban was immediately arrested, subsequently taken away and detained at Rubkonna SPLA 4th Division Infantry Barrack. For the whole day, he was denied access to food and any legal services neihter permitted access to his family or relatives and the whole day, he was kept incommuniccado at miliary barrack. Taban was stripped off of all his equipment including his mobile phones. This is a series of violations of his Constitutional rights as enshrined under Article 19 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011(TCSS 2011) which provides for fair treatment of any accused person and observation of his or her rights. In the evening of the 31.5.2012, Taban was handed again from the detention over to the SPLA Military Intelligence agents who interrrogated him but releasing him later at 8 o’clock in the evening and he returned to his home. He came back to the military Barrack on June 1, 2012 and again interrogated and returned home. On June 2, 2012, upon his third return to the barrack, he was set free and given his equipment while the SPLA secuirty agents remains urging him “if need be, he would be called any time to the barrack”. The reason of his arrest accoding to General Gatduel, was solely that Taban authored a news story entitled “Over 500 SPLA widows Complain of ill-treatment”, an article indeed published on May 30, 2012 by the media1, just a day before his arrest.
SSHURSA also has reliably learned that while arresting him, Major General James Gatduel has placed series of charges against Mr. Kuich. The General accused the journalist among others, of having authored article about the SPLA soldiers’ behaviour towards civilians in Mayom County in 2011 when the national army battled then with the South Sudan’s militias.
The arrest of this journalist is a continuation of the harrassment and intimidation against the media that has been rocking the country. SSHURSA condemns such heavy handedness on the media practioners by the SPLA. It is a violation of the Constitution and such behaviour cannot be tolerated under democracy. The fight for a free and law abiding nation was one of the factors for which South Sudan took up arms against and to demand from military oriented and successive dictatorial regimes of Khartoum. By ordering the arrest of the journalist Taban, the General has violated Article 24. (1) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 which provides for the freedom of expression and media. This provision clearly states;
“Every citizen shall have the right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to public order, safety or morals as prescribed by law”.
The journalist Mr. Kuich, by publishing the Article2, he was still within the limits of the Constitutional provisions and if the SPLA General felt that the article was false and defamatory to his units or command, he would have used the available laws of South Sudan to sue the journalist before the court of law and not using “personal powers” to intimidate the media.
Unfortunately also; by calling Mr. Kuich to his office and allowing him to be arrested by the General in his presence, the Unity State’s Deputy Governor Honourable Michael Chiangjiek failed to observe and protect Article 24. (2) of the Country’s Transitional that provides
“All levels of government shall guarantee the freedom of the press and other media as shall be regulated by law in a democratic society”.
SSHURSA altogether condemns such deliberate violation of the Constitution and strongly urges the SPLA to observe and respect the provisions of the law and in particular calls upon the Unity State government to protect the journalists more specifically Mr. Bonifacio Taban Kuich who is now under General Gatduel’s warnings. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land on which all authority including the powers of the SPLA generals are derived and therefore, it must be respected by all and its provisions must be observed at every level of government and institutions or individuals throughout the Country. This is a nation yearning to implement what its people’s blood was sacrificed for and that is democratic governance solidly founded on the respect of the Constitution with no exception from any citizen.
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