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JUBA - 5 Jul 2016

Catholic radio in South Sudan harassed by security after airing 'devils' homily

Bakhita Radio has been visited several times since last week by National Security Service personnel in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, after the station aired a homily in which the priest called government officials 'monkeys', 'criminals' and 'devils' for their alleged role in recent violence in Wau, the country's second largest city.

A top station manager within the radio confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that the security came several times last week and asked the management for audio of the Catholic priest who called the government 'devils' and 'criminals' in a homily aired by the station.

“We are ruled really by monkeys. We are ruled by monkeys. We have to be very clear: We are ruled by monkeys... Devils! These are devils! We are ruled by devils. And we are very sorry for them,” Monsignor Racco Taban told the congregation. He is the head of the diocese of Malakal.

Taban was furious about recent violence in Wau, which South Sudan's Council of Churches has condemned. Many civilians were targeted in the violence on an ethnic basis and an unconfirmed number of people were killed, at least several dozen. Witnesses reported to Radio Tamazuj seeing bodies in the streets, while UN peacekeepers were not allowed to patrol in the town until after the government had carried out secret mass burials.

Bakhita Radio Manager Achiro told Radio Tamazuj, “The security also asked me to come to the Ministry of Information with registration certificates for the radio and I went but I did not meet the minister and again I was told to return at evening and finally they said they will call me anytime and until now we are working normally, they did not call and they did not come again.”

Repeated summons are a common practice by security services in South Sudan when dealing with a person under investigation for a political crime.

The Ministry of Information have played a key role in a crackdown on the media since mid-2013, working in conjunction with the National Security Service. Bakhita Radio was previously closed for several months in 2014 for reporting on the ongoing civil war, and was told to stop reporting news and focus on religious issues.