Petition in Support of ABC’s Television Interview with Madam Angelina Teny on 16 May 2017
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Ms Michelle Guthrie,
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Dear Ms Guthrie,
We, members of the South Sudanese Community in Australia, have learned of the “Petition against the appearance of Mrs. Angelina Teny on ABC Television on 16 May 2017” (First Petition). This Petition (Second Petition) is in opposition to the First Petition.
The subject of the First Petition is Madam Angelina Teny, a senior member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO). Mr Delta Bravo (First Petitioner) is a member of the South Sudanese Community in Australia and a staunch supporter of the “Government of South Sudan” which is headed by Salva Kiir Mayardit (Kiir’s Regime). We the undersigned members of the South Sudanese Australian Community dispute the outrageous, bias and baseless claims made in the First Petition addressed to ABC for doing its job and upholding Australian values. We provide our reasons as to why we support the ABC’s decision to air the 16 May interview and why it should disregard the First Petition.
Firstly, the First Petition, which was started on Charge.org on Friday 19 May, called on ABC, in unspecified terms, to “immediately rectify” the matter. We assume the “matter” referred to is ABC’s decision to interview Madam Angelina. This call, to gag Madam Angelina, sends chills down the spines South Sudanese Australians. The content, tone and the intent of such a call represent a glaring resemblance to Kiir’s Regime policy of suppressing diverse views not only in South Sudan, but wherever it can reach individual critical of it. In other words, the First Petition, by proposing to gag Madam Angelina, is an attempt to extend the oppressive conduct of Kiir’s Regime, which has silenced all opposition voices in the South Sudan including by killing journalists. For example, on 7th December 2016, Justin Lynch, a journalist with Associated Press (AP) who has reported on the ethnic violence in South Sudan was arrested and deported by the Regime’s security agents. Mr Lynch reported he was not officially informed of the reasons for his arrest and deportation but was told “repeatedly” by the security agents that his “reporting was too critical of the government.” Mr Lynch suffered a relatively easy fate. For local journalist, the consequences of reporting can be fatal.
In 2015 alone seven local journalists were killed, most of whom were targeted for publishing articles critical of government’s handling of the civil war. In addition to this, President Kiir’s security operatives carried out regular raids on media houses. Several news outlets have since ceased operation due to constant harassment, intimidation and in most cases, loss of lives as outlined below.
• This month, South Sudan Media Authority, which members are appointed by President Kiir, banned Al-Jazeera English from reporting in the country. This follows Al-Jezeera reporting that many civilians have been displaced by the regime’s offensive in a district just outside the capital Juba.
• In January 2017, Dong Luak, a Human Right Advocate and his colleague Aggrey Idri were kidnapped in Nairobi, Kenya and are believed to have been deported to South Sudan. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
• In December 2016, a spokesperson for the main opposition group against Kiir’s Regime ,James Gatdet Dak a refugee residing in Kenya (also a member of SPLM IO) was kidnapped and deported from his home in Nairobi by President Kiir security operatives. He is now in indefinite imprisonment under the South Sudan National Security’s Internal Bureau.
• In July 2016, John Gatluak, a South Sudanese journalist with the US-funded Internews Radio service, was killed during an attack on a UN compound by forces loyal to Kiir’s Regime in front of his American colleagues. His killing occurred during the infamous Terrain hotel attack where South Sudanese soldiers invaded the hotel in the capital city of Juba and gang-raped foreign aid workers, majority of whom were Americans.
• In October 2016, a newspaper journalist Malek Bol was kidnapped tortured and left to die in Juba’s Gumba cemetery for posting on social media an article critical of government’s handling of economy while pursuing a military campaign in the country.
• In March 2016 Joseph Afandy, South Sudanese journalist was kidnapped, tortured and his body dumped in a cemetery for criticising the regime’s handling of the conflict.
• In 2015 Peter Julius Moi, a journalist with daily New Nation newspaper was killed in Juba just days after President Kiir warned that he will “demonstrate” it to journalists who “reports against the country”. Peter was targeted for authoring an article critical of government’s targeting of civilians.
• In 2014, journalist George Livio, who worked for United Nations-back Radio Miraya was detained for not “reporting the positives” and good news about the government. He remains in prison and has never been taken to trial.
We point out the above examples and are only the tip of the iceberg demonstrating the extent to which Kiir’s Regime and its loyalist would go to shut out any dissenting voices. Unfortunately, the intimidating tactic and threats of harm, adopted by the Regime and its loyalist, have been so successful that Mr Lynch deportation was reported as the deportation of the “last foreign journalist” by (South Sudan’s) military.
For these reasons stated above, the ABC should not act on the First Petitioner request. The petition is not only an inexcusable bout on the editorial integrity of the ABC; it is an attack on freedom of expression and an infringement on press freedom. If the ABC was to assent to the First Petitioner request, it would be lending a hand, and extending the reach of the Kiir’s Regime policy against journalist and freedom of speech. ABC should not allow itself to be used in this manner. It should continue to make its independent decisions, based on its own research, and as to what is news worthy.
Secondly, and despite the First Petitioner claims against Madam Angelina, it is the so-called Government of South Sudan, which has been the main orchestrator of violence in the Country. The fact that the First Petitioner fails to mention any of the widely reported horrific crimes (against civilians) committed by the Kiir’s Regime, but instead paints Madam Angelina and the opposition as the only perpetrators of violence, is not only dangerously misleading but also dishonest. Human Rights groups, the African Union and the United Nation Panel of Experts have all released compelling reports accusing forces loyal to the Regime of orchestrating acts of violence, including ethnic cleansing and “acts of genocide.” For example:
• On 19, May 2017 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing the targeting of civilians based on their ethnicity. The report covers period of July 2016 to January 2017.
• In April 2017, The UN Panel of Experts in it’s final report concluded that “the largest scale of campaigns have been planned and executed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) [Regime’s army] in Government under the leadership of [President] Kiir”.
• In September 2016, the same UN Panel of Experts report confirmed that, the large-scale attack against the then First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, was “directed by the highest level of the SPLA with [President] Kiir’s full knowledge”. It must be recalled this attack ended the peace agreement that was signed in August 2015. The Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) created a Transitional Government of National Unity and aimed to end the South Sudan Conflict. Only three months after the government was formed, the Regime reneged and attempted to assassinate the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny. The SPLM-IO leadership including Dr. Machar and Madam Angelina fled the capital towards Democratic Republic of Congo where they were extracted by the United Nation forces in that country.
• In October 2015, the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Abasanjo) released its finding, after ten month of investigation. The Commission found evidence of crimes against humanity, including “murder, extermination, torture, rape, persecution on political grounds and inhuman and degrading treatment against civilians. The Commission held that the “evidence suggested” that these crimes were committed in “furtherance of state policy.” In short, these crimes would not have been possible without “organised military efforts” and coordination between various actors in the military and the government.
• On 8 May 2014, UNMISS released its report which made similar findings to those in the African Union Commission. UNMISS reported that government forces “engaged in widespread and systematic attacks against the civilians” in Juba. It held that the “security forces engaged in tactics, such as house-to-house searches, across different locations, and targeted the same victim profile, Nuer men, suggesting that their actions and the violence was, at least in part, planned, deliberate and guided by policy directives from a superior level.” The reports held that several inhumane acts occurred in the context of these attacks, including murder, imprisonment, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and enforced disappearance. These tactics were not limited to the capital city, Juba. UNMISS reported that in other parts of the country, government forces “engaged in a wholesale assault against the civilian populations” including those sheltering in UNMISS compounds.
As Britain's Secretary for International Development, Priti Patel said the killings and other atrocities going on in South Sudan amount to genocide and African leaders need to "step up."
It is regrettable and telling that the First Petitioners, Mr Delta Bravo, ignored all the above independent international agencies finding which attributes some of the most gruesome acts of violence against civilians to the South Sudan’ Regime.
Thirdly, the First Petitioner made baseless allegations against Madam Angelina and seeks to paints her as guilty by association to her husband, Dr Riek Machar. As noted, the South Sudan’s Regime cannot be exempts from the mass atrocities it has committed; it has been the principle actors in the mass displacements of civilians and has been accused of ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide. Further, Mr Delta Bravo, the First Petitioner, has well-known links with the Chairman of Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) whom the UN Panel of Experts in their final report blamed for financing the Mathiang Anyoor militia forces that are committing most of the atrocities in the country. If by having links with a leader were an issue, the First Petitioner, would be equally pursued for his association with the JCE and for supporting a government accused of mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing.
Fourthly, Madam Angelina’s message since arriving in Australia has been a call for peace and reconciliation. She called upon any of her supporters and the wider South Sudanese community in Australia to embrace forgiveness and seek to work across tribal lines. Even though she and her husband were the victims of two assassination attempts, she has encouraged members of the South Sudanese community to focus on what will take the country forward. She was one of the negotiators who successfully put together the ARCSS, the road map for peace and reform in the country.
Further, Madam Angelina is not in Australia to “drum up support for the movement amongst the supporters, mobilise financial resources and spread further hatred among the South Sudanese” as alleged by the First Petitioner. We note that Mr Delta Bravo provided no evidence to support this claim. Instead he attempts to defame and portray members of the South Sudanese Community in the Eastern part of Melbourne in a derogatory manner and diminishes their suffering as a result of the South Sudan’s conflict. He ignores the fact that these families have been mostly affected by the violence in South Sudan since most of the fighting took place in their homelands. Of the many victims of the South Sudan civil war, their families have bear the worst of it. Furthermore, all the events, which Madam Angelina participated, were open to the public; therefore, nothing involved “covert activities” as alleged by the First Petitioner.
One of the main aims of Madam Angelina visit was to raise awareness about the famine in South Sudan. We note that her reports indicated the government of South Sudan is to be blame for the famine. In fact, the Washington Post labelled it as “South Sudan’s government-made famine. In addition to causing the famine, the South Sudan regime has also engaged in “starvation tactics” by denying aid workers access to displaced populations and forces loyal to the government looting aids organisation food storage facilities. Madam Angelina has been urging the international community to commit more resources to rescue the millions of South Sudanese facing serve food shortages.
Madam Angelina’s visit is also to lobby for a political process to stop the conflict in the country. She has done so by calling on members of South Sudanese Australian community to embrace peace and reconciliation. In no meeting, all of which were publicly held, did Madam Angelina call for any of the matters alleged in the First Petitioner Petition. The First Petitioner Petition is misleading, bias and dangerous. His approach further entrenches the divide within the South Sudanese Australian Community.
We agree with the First Petitioner that the South Sudanese community in Australia has been divided by the conflict. We disagree however that this should be achieved by adopting the government of South Sudan’s tactics of gaging opposition’s voices. We welcome Mr Delta Bravo to suggest a more fruitful way of addressing the issues affecting the South Sudanese community in Australia in a manner that does not undermine human rights and the freedoms protected by the Australia legal system.
Therefore, We, the undersigned members of the South Sudanese Australian Community call on ABC to not act on the First Petition.
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