(Nairobi) – South Sudan’s National Security Service has detained Michael Christopher, the editor-in-chief of the Arabic language daily newspaper Al Watan, without charge since July 17, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today.
“The arbitrary detention of Michael Christopher is the latest brazen attack against freedom of the press in South Sudan,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately release him or charge him with a recognized criminal offense.”
National Security Service (NSS) officers arrested Christopher at the Juba International Airport on July 15 as he was leaving the country. They forced him off the plane, confiscated his passport, and told him to report to the NSS headquarters without explaining why. Security officers arrested him on the afternoon of July 17 when he reported to the security service office.
In January, both South Sudan’s Media Authority and the NSS had warned Christopher, after he published an opinion article supporting the political protests in Sudan. The authorities suspended publication of Al Watan in March on grounds of noncompliance and operating without a license. Christopher had to temporarily flee the country due to death threats from persons he believes were security agents.
South Sudan’s National Security Service has often targeted critics of the government and perceived dissidents for harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention. The agency has broad powers of surveillance, arrest, and detention, and has embedded officers in some newspaper offices, leading to a growing climate of self-censorship.