South Sudan #Free Uganda Journalists

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Hillary while covering floods in Kasese, Western Uganda a few months ago. This is Hillary Ayesiga a Ugandan journalist. I met Hillary in 2007 when we started working for Nation TV Uganda (NTV), a part of the Aga Khan’s Nation Media Group. It was the new station in Uganda, fairly professional- more than most TV stations to the best of my judgement.

Hillary was a colleague for close to two years when i worked at NTV and he is a friend. He’s a hard working journalist. He never shies away from stories.

On Saturday, Hillary was arrested in Juba, South Sudan together with Justin Dralaze, a video journalist that has worked with Reuters for long time until recently. The two had gone to South Sudan to do stories for Feature Story News (FSN), a US-based company.

These two journalists, well known, well respected in Uganda have been in detention at the National Security Headquarters in Juba. They were arrested while filming along the airport road in Juba without permission. This is the building where they are being held.

The government of South Sudan has detained them for more than 48 hours without a charge or even a statement.

On the evening news i learnt that Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was talking to President Salva Kiir’s government but nothing much is coming out.

It is very easy to prove that these are journalists and if they filmed without permission necessary steps can be taken but their detention at a military facility without charge further taints Kiir’s government as a government that is intolerant to the press.

Early this month, South Sudan’s parliament passed two bills to improve press freedom but journalists there continue to face arbitrary detention by the security forces.

In 2013 press freedom index compiled by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders South Sudan slipped 13 places to 124 out of 179 countries.

Hillary and Justin situation comes at time when President Salva Kiir has sacked his entire Cabinet so the president’s involvement is vital to secure this release it might be difficult to get someone responsible.

Ugandans have so far gone on twitter , put out a campaign calling on Salva Kiir to ensure release of the Ugandan journalists.

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