A female journalist who was arrested in South Sudan’s capital earlier this month while covering a protest over high food prices has been released from detention.
Diing Magot, a freelance correspondent for the Voice of America, was arrested Aug. 7 at Konyo-konyo market along with six protesters for working without an identification document.
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Juba demanded that Magot be released “immediately,” and stated that journalists have the right to do their work without interference or harm.
According to Magot’s lawyer, Seven Wani, Magot was released Monday on bail, pending further investigations into her case.
“The bail does not mean that this case has been dismissed,” her lawyer said. “Once the investigation is done, the matter will be transferred to court. This is to say that the case is still ongoing and all the accused … will be summoned to court if the matter is transferred to court.”
The release of the journalist brought much relief to her family.
“Ever since her arrest, as a family we have been trying to knock on doors, even doors of government officials, so that they are able to give an ear to her case and speedily remove her from detention,” said Diing Magot’s sister Ayen.
South Sudan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. The index says journalists in South Sudan have faced harassment, arbitrary detention, torture, and even death in instances where they did not practice self-censorship.
Ayen Magot discussed the repercussions of journalist arrests in South Sudan, which she believes will dissuade young people from pursuing careers as journalists.
“This is a noble profession and there are young people out there who have dreams to become journalists,” she said. “What happens to them in such situations? They are looking, they are watching, they will be told, no, don’t enter, don’t enter this profession because it is risky.”
Oyet Patrick Charles, president of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, confirmed the release of Diing Magot. He noted that she was detained beyond the hours permitted by the constitution, on the grounds that the state attorney requested more time to consider her case.
VOA’s public relations office on Monday said it was “elated” at the release of Magot and thanked the South Sudan Union of Journalists, Magot’s colleagues and others in Juba who “worked tirelessly for her release.”