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South Sudan: Journalist for U.N.-backed station held without charge for two weeks

Authorities in South Sudan must present journalist George Livio to a court or release him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The reporter for Radio Miraya, a U.N.-backed station, has been held without charge by security forces for more than two weeks, according to local journalists and news reports.

Security agents arrested Livio and U.N. security guard James Lual Tharjiath in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, without explanation on August 22, according to James Deng, secretary general of the state's Union of Journalists of South Sudan.

Derrick Alfred, the information minister for Western Bahr el Ghazal state, told CPJ that national security agents had monitored Livio's communications, including his computer files, and accused him of collaborating with the rebels. Livio's family and employers have denied the allegations, according to news reports.

On Sunday, South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei warned journalists at a government-run media forum on the role of the press in nation-building not to interview rebels or they will be viewed as "agitators" and face punitive measures, according to news reports. The minister made similar threats in March.

"We call on South Sudanese authorities to observe due process of law and release George Livio immediately if they have no charges to file against him," said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. "The public has a right to hear from all sides in the country's conflict, while journalists have a right and a duty to report accordingly."

Under the 2008 Code of Criminal Procedure Act, authorities can detain a citizen for only 24 hours before presenting the suspect to a court. Livio, who on August 24 was moved to the capital, Juba, has been denied legal aid, and contact with family, including his father Geligo Livio, an economic adviser for the Western Bahr el Ghazal state government, according to news reports.

Fighting that broke out in South Sudan in mid-December, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, has escalated into a civil war. Each party has repeatedly accused the other of violating a stalled ceasefire agreement signed in January and re-pledged in May, according to news reports.

Livio's reporting has displeased officials before. State authorities briefly detained the reporter in Wau in December 2012 for covering the trials of politicians accused of instigating riots over the relocation of the county headquarters, local journalists told CPJ.

Sudan security agents have a propensity to detain and harass journalists without any recourse to the law, according to CPJ research.

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