Journalists detained over video appearing to show South Sudan president wetting himself

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) gives a press conference jointly with his former vice-president and political rival Riek Machar (R) after they met at the State House in Juba, where they confirmed that they had agreed to a joint government in February 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)
South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) gives a press conference jointly with his former vice-president and political rival Riek Machar (R) after they met at the State House in Juba, where they confirmed that they had agreed to a joint government in February 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

Six journalists in South Sudan have been detained by authorities over footage appearing to show president Salva Kiir wetting himself, the country’s national journalists union said.

The journalists, including camera operators, technicians and editors, were detained on Saturday.

The footage was recorded in December and shows a dark stain on the president’s grey trousers as he stood for the national anthem at a road commissioning event.

Mr Kiir, 71, has been president of South Sudan since the country gained independence in 2011.

The video was never released on television but went viral after being circulated on social media.

The journalists, who are employees of the state-operated South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation, were detained by South Sudanese authorities on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Patrick Oyet, president of the South Sudan Union of Journalists, told Reuters that the six journalists are suspected of knowing how the video was released.

Mr Oyet also stated that the group was concerned because those detained have been held for longer than legally allowed.

South Sudanese law authorises suspects to be held without charge for only 24 hours before being brought before a judge.

President Kiir, 71, has been accused of a policy of ‘arbitrary detention’ by press freedom watchdog CPJ
President Kiir, 71, has been accused of a policy of ‘arbitrary detention’ by press freedom watchdog CPJ

South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei, as well as National Security Service spokesperson David Kumuri, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the arrests.

Officials have denied rumours circulating on social media that president Kiir is unwell.

The sub-Saharan Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Muthoki Mumo, told reporters: “Authorities should unconditionally release these six SSBC employees and ensure that they can work without further intimidation or threat of arrest.”

Mumo also suggested the incident matches a pattern of security personnel resorting to arbitrary detention whenever officials deem coverage unfavourable.

Press freedom remains a strong issue for the country, with nine journalists having been killed in South Sudan since its independence.

The country has been embroiled in conflict for much of the past decade. Elections have not been held in the country since 2011, though one is planned for 2024.

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