July 15, 2017 / 2:00 PM / 4 months ago

Head of South Sudan state television arrested - wife

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The head of South Sudan’s state television has been arrested, his wife told Reuters on Saturday, after failing to carry a live broadcast of President Salva Kiir’s speech during independence day celebrations this week.

Adil Faris Mayat’s arrest underscores continuing harassment of journalists in South Sudan where a four-year civil war pitting Kiir’s military against the opposition led by his former deputy, Riek Machar, is spreading and growing deadlier.

Government officials were unavailable for comment. Calls to the information minister, his deputy and the president’s spokesman were unanswered.

In 2015, five journalists were killed in the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mayat, director of South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), was arrested on July 10 by security officials for failing to broadcast Kiir’s speech live.

The speech, on July 9, was marking South Sudan’s 6th Independence Anniversary.

According to his wife, Mayat decided against broadcasting the speech live “to avoid any technical difficulties (which) might appear during the live broadcast.”

That decision, she said, was considered by the authorities “as an insurrection, conspiracy”.

South Sudan, which won independence in 2011, plunged into civil conflict in December 2013 after a long-running political feud between Kiir and Machar, who are from rival ethnic groups.

Much of the fighting is along ethnic lines.

Mayat is being held in the capital Juba and his wife said she has not been able to see or contact him since his arrest.

Writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Stephen Powell

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