19th June 2021
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Family of a journalist to appeal court ruling in favor of finance minister

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Tuesday, September 15, 2020

File: Journalist Zechariah Makuach Maror behind bar in a Juba prison.

The family of a journalist who was sentenced to a year in prison by a County judge has expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict describing it as “unfair”.

On Monday 14, the Juba County Court found Zechariah Makuach guilty of defamation charges.

The court said Makuach, who works for ‘Agamlong’ daily newspaper, had been writing articles accusing the Minister of Finance, Salvatore Garang, of corruption, tribalism, nepotism, among others. 

The journalist also used various social media platforms to advance his criticisms of Salvatore’s performance.

One such article was published on January 11 by The Dawn Newspaper under the title; “Dr. Olympio Attipoe, the victim of fighting tamed corruption in South Sudan.” 

In it, he praised the former commissioner-general of National Revenue Authority for being far more effective than Salvatore. 

Following the publication of such articles, the minister filed a complaint against the journalist in April 2020, accusing him of defamation and insulting his reputation. 

In Monday’s ruling, the court found the journalist guilty, citing a “lack of evidence” to prove his allegations against Salvatore.

The presiding Judge Achok Chan Reech said the journalist failed to prove the allegations made against the minister.

The court then sentenced Zechariah Makuach to one year in Juba’s prison. 

But the brother of the journalist has expressed concerns over the court ruling.

“We, as a family, felt that the court was colluding with the minister,” Saad Zechariah told Eye Radio. “We know very well that any South Sudanese citizen has the right to express himself towards his leaders.”

The family and defense lawyer say they will appeal against the ruling. 

According to the defense lawyer, the journalist was not able to present evidence in the interest of protecting his sources.

Lawyer Emmanuel Thiap stated that the ruling is against media and press freedoms in the country.

“Any action against a journalist must pass before the Media Authority before it reaches any stage of litigation in the courts. But this did not happen in Zechariah’s case,” said Thiap.

Thiap stressed that they will submit an appeal within 14 days before the high court.

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