Updated Thursday 6th May 10.00 GMT. Sudanvotes and Amnesty International spoke with Stephen Gatwich Taban, who confirmed that Bonifacio Taban had been released from Bentiu State Prison. He is now recovering and wishes to thank everyone involved in his release for their untiring efforts and support. Tomorrow, he must return to the State Prison to collect his radio recorder and camera.
Updated Wednesday 5th May 10.00 GMT. Bonifacio Taban remains in Bentiu State Prison without any official charge confirmed Bonifacio's brother this morning. No further news from UNMIS, Amnesty International or Reporters Without Borders, all who are campaigning for Bonifacio's release.
Updated Monday 3 May. 10.00 GMT. Stephen Gatwich Taban has been in touch over the weekend, telling sudanvotes that Bonifacio Taban was beaten and tortured on Saturday. This is yet to be verified, but creates great concern with all his colleagues at Bentiu FM and sudanvotes.com
Reports Update Friday 30 April 12.00 GMT UNMIS made direct appeals yesterday to release Bonifacio Taban to no avail. Reasons given are due to his lack of accreditation, but Taban has been accredited with Bentiu FM as their main presenter for many years.
Update Thursday 29 Aprll 2010 12.00 GMT. UNMIS Human Rights officials are making representation for Taban's release in Bentiu State Prison this afternoon.
Bonifacio Taban at work in Bentiu
Sudanvotes correspondent and Bentiu FM journalist Bonifacio Taban Kuick is forcing the wrath of our government for exposing the maladministration of Unity State government something the authorities seems to still deem unacceptable. Bonifacio was arrested while covering a protest by supporters of Unity State independent candidate Angelina Teny on Friday 23rd April after the local electoral official announcement that the SPLM backed Taban Deng Gai was the winner though he was widely believe to be heading for failure. According to Bonifacio's family the arrest had little connection with the protest but was a hunt on him to have him send to jail for reporting against the government. “Last year Taban wrote an article about the governor that was published by the Khartoum monitor newspaper in Khartoum and the governor got a copy of the paper. Since then they were looking for ways to arrest him but they failed but this time they have succeeded”, said Gatkuich, Taban’s brother.
Bonifacio Taban in Juba
According to the brother they had contacted ‘neutral’ international Aid agencies such as the United Nation Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in the state but the office had been reluctant to follow up the case, “We have gone to neutral bodies like UNMIS, they are reluctant in handling the matter, however Bentiu FM administration is negotiating with the security to have him released.” Sudanvotes has since been in touch with UNMIS in Juba, who have been very helpful and are pushing for his release.
In a telephone interview with Taban in the prison through the help of a police officer, he said the security men always get him out at night for interrogation, he said they accused him of being anti-governor Taban Deng Gai and the government of Southern Sudan by reporting their secrets. “I was picked at night yesterday, they questioned me about my stories which I wrote about the state governor and the government of Southern Sudan. My arrest has nothing to do with the protest, they accused me of being an agent for the opposition because I didn’t write good about them, they beat me, asking me if I will stop exposing local politics in Bentiu to local or international media”
The government of Southern Sudan has widely been accused of suppressing the freedom of expression over these elections and before. Last year Juba Post managing editor Isaac Billy spent six hours behind bars when the Juba post newspaper ran a story about an army general in the government of Southern Sudan who was accused by the Madi community of Eastern Equatoria state for grabbing their land then sold it to a Somali investor. Sudan Tribune reporter Isaac Vuni was also recently detained by police in Juba, South Sudan for five days for exposing the collapse of the Nile Commercial Bank and how some top government officials were responsible for the collapse of the bank. Mr. Vuni said while captive that he was denied, food, water and access to a toilet.
It is difficult to to judge which freedom of expression the government of Southern Sudan is claiming to be fighting for when they accuse Khartoum's National Congress Party (NCP) for lack of democracy when they as well suppress the freedom of expression in South Sudan.
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