Two female journalists have told Eye Radio that they were physically attacked by a senior army officer while covering the military command council conference at Bilpam in Juba on Thursday.
The SSPDF had invited the press to cover its annual meeting presided over by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Salva Kiir.
About five journalists were told to set up their recorders at the conference hall in the Eagle building when the SSPDF Director of Information and Public Relations “rudely” asked them to leave.
Gen. Malaak Ayuen reportedly hit the two female journalists on the back while pushing them towards the back of the conference hall.
The journalists informed him that they were told to set up the recording devices at the front location by the army spokesperson.
But Gen. Ayuen, who himself is army journalist who presents a history show on the state-run SSBC television, got angry and further used a camera tripod to hit the female reporters on the legs.
“When I picked up my bag to leave, he pushed me, picked a tripod and hit my leg with it. He went on to hit another female journalist,” a female journalist recollects the incident.
An argument between Gen. Ayuen and the SSPDF spokesperson, General Lul Ruai ensued, but he reportedly remained adamant.
The journalists were eventually forced to move to the corner of the room where recording of the speech of the President was poor.
“I did not expect our South Sudanese men to do that. Moreover, this is an elderly; he is an army officer – someone who is supposed to protect us,” added the reporter.
When contacted by Eye Radio, the SSPDF Spokesperson, Major General Lul Ruai, confirmed the incident, saying it was “regrettable” and blamed it on “attitude”.
“It’s regrettable that some of our journalists were mishandled there in a way they should not have been handled,” Maj. Gen. Ruai said.
“There is need for transformation and transformation should start with the attitude. There is need for some of us at the national level to work on our attitudes so that we handle our civilians with a lot decent manner.”
South Sudan journalists are killed, beaten, detained, denied entry or fired for doing their jobs, according to a UN report.
Due to the hostile environment, some have reportedly quit the profession while others sought safety in foreign lands.
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