South Sudan Radio Stations Say Raided Ahead Of Vote

Media activists said the raids on Bakhita Radio and Liberty FM highlighted harassment of journalists in the south in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections next month.

Staff at Liberty FM told Reuters armed men who said they were from south Sudan’s police burst into the station’s office in the southern capital Juba on Wednesday and forced it to stop broadcasting.

“They came with guns held high,” said station manager Albino Tokwaro. “(One of the men) locked up the radio building and took the keys with him.”

Tokwaro said he was taken to a police station and interviewed by a senior officer. “He said ‘You are producing bad programmes that bring hatred of the people.'”

Tokwaro said Liberty FM had aired a live interview with a member of the campaign team for Alfred Lado Gorre, an independent candidate for the governorship of Central Equatoria state, which includes Juba.

He said the interview had included complaints about the lack of clean water, health facilities and good roads in the city.

No one was immediately available to comment from the police.

The south’s Roman Catholic Bakhita Radio released a statement saying security men also raided its premises on Wednesday and arrested the manager, Sister Cecilia Sierra Salcido, a nun, without explaining their actions.

“We felt offended by the way the directress was taken from her office to the car under police escort,” the statement read.

Both stations said staff were later released and they were able to resume broadcasting the same day. Bakhita Radio said it later received an apology from the Director of Security in Central Equatoria State.

Southern rights group the Agency for Independent Media on Friday said the raids amounted to attack on press freedom.

“We expect more intimidation, more harassment of journalists and even the detention of some of our journalists across the south,” agency head David de Dau told Reuters.

The elections were promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war in Sudan.

The south’s semi-autonomous government is dominated by the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which is widely expected to win most of the southern seats.