On Wednesday July 3 South Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire print run of South Sudan‘s leading independent English language daily newspaper, the Juba Monitor. The reason? Its editor Alfred Taban defied an order not to report on local government demands to be given more authority, Jason Patinkin reports for the Christian Science Monitor:
“It didn’t surprise me,” he says, leaning back in his office chair next to towering stacks of papers lit by the glow of a computer screen. ”I knew they would react negatively.”
Having endured years of harsh censorship in Khartoum under successive dictators, Taban, from the south, hoped that independence for South Sudan would bring change. But three years later, Taban says the press climate in Juba the capital is nearly as bad as his years in Khartoum, in Sudan.
Taban first moved to Khartoum in 1976 to attend university, then became the BBC’s correspondent in 1981, and until 2007. But it was in 2000 when he began his most important and dangerous work, as he calls it – starting the Khartoum Monitor in order to report on the civil war for readers in the rebellious south.
“Taban’s tenacity earned him a 2006 meeting in the Oval Office (above, left) with President George Bush where he received a National Endowment for Democracy award,” Patinkin adds:
But Taban’s biggest problem is the ruling government’s attitude about press freedom, especially given the civil war. He’s been detained four times since 2011. He and other editors receive calls from the government not to report on topics like corruption. The confiscation of the July 3 paper was the third such incident this year, and came a day after South Sudan’s press minister pledged to uphold press freedom.