In a positive turn of events, South Sudanese authorities have released two journalists who were arrested and detained for over a week for posting a video of President Salva Kiir on social media.
The video showed President Kiir urinating on himself openly.
The journalists, who work for state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation — were arrested by agents from the National Security Service as part of an investigation into the source of the clip.
They were charged with “disseminating false information” and “undermining the government”.
Two of the seven journalists arrested in January in this case, remain in police custody over the video that went viral on social media in December, the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) said.
In the footage, Kiir, dressed in his trademark black hat and a grey outfit at what is described as a road commissioning ceremony, is seen with a damp patch on his left trouser leg.
The arrest of the journalists was widely criticized as a violation of press freedom and an attempt to silence independent reporting.
Presshub Africa has hailed the decision and demanded that the other two journalists still in custody, released unconditionally as well.
“The release of the journalists is a step in the right direction towards protecting the independence of the media in South Sudan and upholding the rights of journalists to report on important issues without fear of persecution. It is crucial for the South Sudanese government to respect press freedom and create an environment that allows for free and independent reporting,” said Ann Wairimu, PressHub’s Special Programs editor.
“This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of press freedom and the need to protect the rights of journalists in South Sudan and around the world. We hope that the South Sudanese government will continue to take steps towards creating a more open and free press environment” added Wairimu in a statement.
President Kiir, 71, oversaw the birth of South Sudan as an independent nation after it broke free from Sudan in July 2011.
But the world’s youngest country has lurched from crisis to crisis since then, enduring brutal conflict, political turmoil, natural disasters and hunger.
South Sudan ranks 128th out of 180 countries according to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index.