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U.S. demands release of VOA journalists detained in South Sudan

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in South Sudan called on authorities in the Central African country to release a journalist from prison.

Diing Magot, a freelance journalist who contributes to Voice of America's South Sudan In Focus program, was arrested Sunday in the capital Juba while covering protests against economic hardship.

Maggot did not have her ID or press card when she was arrested.

Diing Magot
Dying Maggot

Police arrested the journalist and several protesters and took her to the Malakia Police Station.

The South Sudan Media Authority, a government regulatory agency, asked the VOA to provide a letter confirming Maggot's appointment to the International Broadcasting Authority.

We have submitted a letter to media authorities, but we were expecting word of her immediate release," VOA spokeswoman Anna Morris said in a statement Tuesday.

Instead, according to Morris, Maggot will be transferred with five protesters to Juba Central Jail, where she will await her court date.

"We are very saddened by the arrest of Dying Her Maggot," said Morris. "We are calling on the South Sudan authorities to release the journalist immediately."

The South Sudan Union of Journalists said the lawyer representing the journalist had been denied access to her.

Social In a letter demanding her release shared on her media, the union said it believed Maggot's constitutional rights had been violated. South Sudan's constitution stipulates that she must be released on bail or taken to court within 24 hours of her arrest, the union said.

The South Sudanese Embassy in Washington did not respond to her VOA email requesting comment.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, citing a police spokesperson, said that Maggot was still under investigation, and that the attorney general had 3, which said they were giving her permission to take additional custody.

The US Embassy in Juba called on authorities to "immediately release" Maggot. Noting that she was arrested while covering peaceful protests, the embassy added, "We affirm the right of journalists to do their job without interference or harm." }

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a media rights group, said South Sudan's journalists should be able to operate without the threat of arrest.

“Journalists in South Sudan need not worry about being detained for simply doing their job of informing the public of what is happening in their country,” said the CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative in Nairobi. Mutoki Mumo said.

Authorities should "immediately release" Maggot, she added.

Other media watchdogs have previously described the media situation in South Sudan as "highly precarious".

Earlier this year, at least eight of her journalists, including a VOA contributor, were temporarily detained on parliamentary grounds where they were scheduled to hold a press conference, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.