Freedom of expression vital for peace in conflict-afflicted South Sudan – UN report

Genuine reconciliation and lasting peace will only be achieved in South Sudan if people are free and safe to express their opinions regardless of their ethnic or political affiliations, a UN report released today says.

The report, co-authored by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office, warns that undue restrictions on freedom of expression are having a “chilling effect” and “further shrinking the space for debate and dissent”, while incitement to hatred also continues to cause mistrust, fear and violence.

“South Sudan’s conflict, with widespread human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties, has inflicted untold suffering on millions. People have been denied the right to life, the right to justice, and, as this report details, the right to freedom of opinion and expression – rights that are not luxuries but are essential to bring about peace and development,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

After five years of ongoing conflict in South Sudan, which has uprooted more than four million people, peace efforts are under way both internationally and at grassroots level. Given the importance of these initiatives, which include the High Level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the National Dialogue process, civil society actors, journalists, media houses and associations must be able to operate freely without censorship, harassment or being threatened.

“It is vital that the voices of all the people of South Sudan are heard so that genuine, inclusive and durable peace can be achieved,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer. “All parties to the conflict must respect people’s right to freedom of expression regardless of their ethnicity, beliefs or political views.”

The report identifies 60 verified incidents which violated the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression of 102 victims, including 17 women, in the period from July 2016 to December 2017.

Incidents included the killing of two people, the arbitrary arrest and detention of 58 others, 16 people dismissed from their jobs, the closure or suspension of three newspaper printing establishments, censorship of newspaper articles and the blocking of websites. Those targeted were seen to be critical of the Government, tarnishing the country’s reputation, or dealing with issues deemed sensitive.

It is important to note that only violations within Government-controlled territory were able to be verified in the report because of insecurity and access restrictions in Opposition-held areas.

The report found that Government security forces, including the National Security Service (NSS), Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS), were responsible for two-thirds of the verified cases of human rights violations. The NSS’ broad powers of surveillance, arrest and detention, including the embedding of its officers in some media offices, meant that people were deterred from participating and discussing the state of the country or human rights, the report stated. This has led to a growing climate of self-censorship.

Many victims said they had not lodged formal complaints because of fear of reprisals by influential people and a lack of trust in institutions including law enforcement and the judiciary.

The report acknowledges efforts by the Government, civil society, and other stakeholders to promote an inclusive and safe environment for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the promotion of democratic dialogue, including through the release of political activists and journalists from prolonged and arbitrary detention.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Amending legislation to decriminalize defamation and ensure that powers given to security forces do not infringe on the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression;
  • Ensuring that violations of the right to freedom of expression are promptly investigated and prosecuted;
  • Strengthening mechanisms to combat incitement to hatred while fully respecting international human rights law;
  • Supporting the training of journalists and state agencies;
  • Ensuring the Media Authority is fully operational, independent and adequately resourced.

The report also calls on all armed forces to guarantee the protection of journalists, civil society, and human rights defenders and respect their right to monitor and report on the armed conflict.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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Minister Shabangu Rolls Out the National Dialogues for No Violence Against Women and Children in Eastern Cape

Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Hon Susan Shabangu, MP, and Supra Mahumapelo, North West Province Premier, will launch the roll out the National Dialogues for No Violence Against Women and Children on Monday, 26th February at the Kenneth Kaunda Municipality.

The National Dialogues in North West will take place in the four District Municipalities of the province. The focus of the dialogues might vary from district to district as they will be informed by the social issues and challenges unique to each district.

The National Dialogues were piloted in Limpopo and rolled out in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces as part of the #365 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children. The dialogues are a platform for deepening democracy whilst ensuring safer and crime-free communities – especially for women and children.

The Department of Women is undertaking the National Dialogues in partnership with the North West Provincial Government, North West Department of Social Development respective municipalities, faith-based organisations, traditional leaders, civil society organisations, legal and the private sectors.

The objective of the National Dialogues is to assist the Department of Women and government to best understand the nature and root causes of the scourge of femicide, rape and violence against women and children, in order to inform government’s response and course of action.

Members of the media are invited as follows:
Date: Monday, 26th February 2018
Venue: Jourbertina Community Hall Community Hall, Matlosana Local Municipality, Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality
Time: 09:00

RSVPs: Shavana Mushwana on 012 359 0261/ 078 980 2604/ shavana.mushwana@women.gov.za or Thebeetsile Keameditse on 018 388 5099/ 082 797 6955/ tkeameditse@nwpg.gov.za

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.

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United States and Libya Sign Cultural Property Protection Agreement

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs I. Steven Goldstein and Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lutfi Almughrabi will sign a landmark bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection on February 23, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at the U.S. Department of State.

As part of the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Libya’s Government of National Accord, the United States will impose import restrictions on categories of archaeological material representing Libya’s cultural heritage dating from 12,000 B.C. through 1750 A.D. and Ottoman ethnological material from Libya dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D. Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are among the many ways the United States is combatting the financing of terrorism and disrupting the global market in illegal antiquities. These restrictions continue similar restrictions implemented by the U.S. government on an emergency basis on December 5, 2017.

The cultural property agreement negotiated by the State Department under the U.S. law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property underscores the United States’ commitment to our relationship with Libya, as well as our global commitment to cultural heritage protection and preservation. The United States now has similar bilateral agreements with 17 countries around the world, as well as emergency import restrictions on cultural property from Iraq and Syria.

Pre-set time for cameras is 1:30 p.m. from the 23rd Street entrance. Final access time for writers and stills is 1:45 p.m. from the 23rd Street entrance.

Media representatives may attend this event upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued photo media credential (e.g., Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), or (2) an official photo identification card issued by their news organization, or (3) a letter from their employer on official letterhead verifying their current employment as a journalist.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Somaliland journalist detained without charge

Somaliland authorities should immediately release Mohamed Aabi Digaale, the Hargeisa bureau chief for the London-based broadcaster Universal TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police arrested Mohamed on February 17 and have been holding him without charge, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of the advocacy organization Human Rights Center, and Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye, the East Africa director of Universal TV, told CPJ.

Authorities on February 19 brought Mohamed to court, where he was remanded to the Counter Terrorism Unit for seven more days while investigations continued, Guleid and Abdullahi told CPJ. Mohamed was relocated today to Hargeisa’s central police station, Guleid said.

Guleid and Abdullahi separately told CPJ that Mohamed’s arrest was likely related to a February 2 story another Universal TV journalist published about conflict in Somaliland’s Sanaag region. Guleid said that some of the people interviewed for the report complained about police conduct in quelling regional violence.

“The arbitrary arrest and detention of Mohamed Aabi Digale, simply because authorities dislike his TV station’s journalism, is outrageous and a violation of justice” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal in New York. “Somaliland should immediately free the journalist without charge and allow him, as well as his Universal TV colleagues, to work without fear of retaliation.”

Somaliland’s deputy police commissioner, Abdirahman Liban Fohle, on February 17 told journalists that Mohamed was arrested because the station had aired a report that was damaging to police, according to a video posted online that was translated and summarized for CPJ.

CPJ was unable to determine if Abdirahman was referring to the February 2 story.

Abdullahi and Yahye Mohamed, executive director of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA), told CPJ that Mohamed had previously written a letter to the Information Ministry apologizing for the February 2 story.

Somaliland’s information minister, Abdurrahman Abdullahi Farah, referred CPJ to a ministry spokesperson, Yonis Ali, for comment. Yonis today told CPJ that police informed the Information Ministry that Mohamed’s arrest was not related to his journalism, but to security matters.

Yonis declined to elaborate on the nature of the security issues, but said that the controversy associated with the February 2 broadcast had been resolved after the ministry received the apology letter, contradicting Abdirahman Libaan Fohle’s February 17 statement.

Abdirahman, the deputy police commissioner, referred CPJ to the police commissioner Abdillahi Fadal Iman for comment. CPJ’s attempts to reach the commissioner on his mobile phone were unsuccessful, and he did not immediately respond to a text message from CPJ today.

Mohamed’s arrest is the latest case in a deteriorating and hostile environment for the press in this semi-autonomous region of Somalia. CPJ has documented at least five cases of journalists who were detained in connection with their work in Somaliland since September 2017. During the elections in November 2017, authorities also shut down social media sites.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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