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South Sudan: UN expert on freedom of expression calls for the release of journalist Alfred Taban

GENEVA (21 July 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today urged the Government of South Sudan to immediately release Alfred Taban, a prominent journalist and chief editor of the daily English newspaper, Juba Monitor.

Mr. Taban was arrested on 16 July by National Security Services agents, one day after the publication of an editorial article in which he calls for the removal of the Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, and the first vice president, Riek Machar, criticising them for their unsuccessful implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement. He is currently held without charges.

“It is crucial for a country seeking to establish peace and stability that it takes active steps to encourage freedom of expression for everyone,” the expert said referring to the recently installed transitional Government. “Any pressure against journalists based on the content of their reporting represents regressive steps that South Sudan cannot afford to take.”

Mr. Taban’s opinion piece came as a response to the violent clashes in Juba on 7 July, between government forces loyal to the president and those loyal to the first vice president, leaving hundreds of people killed. The incident was described as a clear breach of the peace agreement by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, in a recent statement.
 
“The arrest and detention of Mr. Taban are unlawful as they are directly linked to the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” the UN Special Rapporteur  stressed.

The detention of Mr. Taban is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists and media in South Sudan, which have been on the rise since the beginning of the mid-December 2013 conflict. Several journalists have reportedly been killed or detained without trial, and a number of newspapers have been ordered to shut down.

Mr. Kaye urged South Sudanese authorities to halt the targeting of journalists and to uphold the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed to everyone under article 19* of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr Kaye’s statement has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

(*) Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – South Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SSIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Marcelo Daher (+41 22 917 9431 / mdaher@ohchr.org), Azin Tadjdini (+41 22 917 9400 / atadjdini@ohchr.org)  or write to freedex@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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