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As South Sudan Grills Press for Failing to Praise Kiir, UN-MISS Plays Dumb

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 8 -- Some say the UN Mission in South Sudan is too close to the authorities there. And now they'll say it more.

  After journalists were arrested for failing to report on President Salva Kiir's visit and speech in Wau, Inner City Press asked the UN what it thought was a softball question: does UNMISS condemn it? From the January 7 transcript:

Inner City Press: There are these two journalists were arrested in South Sudan by the authorities, Louis Pasquale and Ashab Khamis and they were arrested, it’s reported, for not reporting on a speech by, by President Kiir in Wau. So, I am wondering, since it seemed to many people including press freedom organizations it seems pretty strange, does the, the, the, does the Mission there or the Secretariat here have any comment on the propriety of journalists being arrested for not covering what the Government wants them to cover?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: The Mission does have a strong human rights component, and I will ask if they have any further information on this for us. But, as a general principle, of course, journalists should be allowed to carry out their work free of intimidation. And that means to be able to report freely.

  But the next morning, after checking with UNMISS or rather the DPKO of Herve Ladsous, here's what Nesirky's office sent Inner City Press:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 10:48 AM
Subject: Re: Your question on South Sudan
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Further to the Spokesperson's comments at noon yesterday on journalists in South Sudan, DPKO has this to add: The United Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) confirms that four journalists were released by the security authorities in Wau.

UNMISS has not been able to ascertain the actual reasons for the arrests.

As mandated by the Security Council, the Mission advocates for due process and is working with relevant national authorities to end arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.

  UNMISS, under Hilde Johnson, was not ABLE to "ascertain the actual reasons for the arrests"? The Oye Times reports that

"The minister said that the four officials; Director of Radio and TV Mr. Louis Pasquale Aleu, Director of Radio Mr Alor Deng Koor, Chief News Editor Mr. Kamilio Luciano Jarban and Photographer Michael Lourance were arrested and released on Wednesday evening after the two stations failed to broadcast the speech of President Salva Kiir when he was addressing a public rally in Wau.

He said the journalists were only called for investigations to answer why they failed to make productive records during the president’s speech on 24 December 2012.

"It was very disappointing for the state government to notify on that day that the whole government media in the state did nothing in covering the president’s visit, despite a lot of political vacuum and the recent issue on Wau County dispute. The state government has a right to question these journalists of why they failed," said Oya.

  So, it was for failing to provide "productive" reporting. But UNMISS and DPKO say they don't know why the journalists were taken in. Hear no evil, see no evil -- in some places. Watch this site.

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