I’ve experienced firsthand the way the new state of South Sudan treats its journalists. Since it became independent in 2011, the government has come to see us as a national security threat, doing everything in its power to stop us from investigating corruption and human rights violations.
I’ve been beaten up, threatened, detained and followed. I’ve returned from a day’s reporting with bruised ribs and split lips. But I’m lucky: many of my colleagues haven’t lived to tell their stories. In the past five years, eight journalists have been killed for doing their jobs. South Sudan is now ranked 140th in the World Press Freedom Index, even though our information minister claims that ‘we are the only country where there is absolute freedom of the press and media’.
My first arrest came in 2010, the year before South Sudan broke away from the north. I was detained with my cousin and accused of murder. At first, we didn’t worry too much. We thought it was routine. We were naive. A series of humiliations and torture followed. ‘We shall beat you enough so that you can return on radio and explain to your listeners that there are men out there who beat journalists,’ an officer told us.