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South Sudan Editor Claims Police Detained Him, Seized Paper

The editor of The Citizen, Nhial Bol, says he was detained and questioned over a front-page story about two of the paper's reporters who were held by police after publishing a piece about the demolition of a market in Juba.
The editor of a South Sudan newspaper said Thursday he was detained by security officials and questioned about a story he ran, while another journalist said an issue of his paper was seized after publishing details of a news conference at which President Salva Kiir was criticized.

Nhial Bol, editor of The Citizen, said he was approached on Tuesday by a "young man (who) came and asked me to go with him."

"First he told me that he is a student, but when I went outside he told me that he is a member of National Security and he is taking me to the police station," Bol said.

The police held him for almost the entire day and questioned him about a front page story that ran inThe Citizen newspaper last week, describing how two of the paper's reporters were detained for covering the demolition of a market in Juba, Bol said.

One of the reporters, a young woman, was denied the right to nurse her baby while in police custody, the story said.

Security forces also seized copies of the Wednesday edition of The Citizen, which carried a story about Bol's detention, he said. The seizure of Wednesday's print run cost The Citizen $12,000, Bol said.

Another newspaper editor, Alfred Taban, who is with The Juba Monitor, said security forces confiscated copies of the Saturday issue.

"We learned it was because we had published (coverage of) the press conference held the day before by the First Deputy Chairman of the SPLM, Dr. Riek Machar," the former vice president of South Sudan who was sacked by Kiir in a government reshuffle in July.

At the press conference covered by Taban's paper, Machar was critical of Kiir and questioned his leadership of the ruling SPLM party.

Taban, who was himself detained in March after his paper published an opinion piece that was critical of a former state governor, said he plans to sue the government for lost revenue.

Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth declined to comment on Bol's detention or the seizure of the two newspapers, but announced a news conference on Friday to explain a new requirement for all journalists in South Sudan to register with the government.

Most media outlets, including The Citizen, have refused to be part of the mandatory registration process announced last month and for which the deadline has passed.

South Sudan agreed in February to be the first country to adopt a United Nations-backed initiative aimed at creating a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.