Ateny Wek Ateny: A man who taxes J1 Press Unit staff per a trip with the President.
By Chol Duang : Opinion
In one of our casual conversations with a J1 reporter sometime in 2015, he told me how he shares his trip allowances with Ateny Wek by half. I couldn’t believe him, looking at Ateny Wek, a man who publicly abhors corruption. By then I was an intern with SSTV, now SSBC. J1 Press Unit then — like now — had a skeletal media team of 4 to 5 journalists: two cameramen, two TV reporters and a radio journalist.
It would later again be confirmed to me by another reporter who was joining J1 in 2017. This time, Ateny had fallen out with the previous reporter, accusing him of damaging their relationship; or perhaps for stopping to pay his taxes to Ateny. Within SSBC early 2017, speculations were rife that J1 was recruiting more SSBC journalists to join its Press Unit, as government activities were expanding.
Another reason for recruitment of new journalists was to help “clean the image of the President,” who was then badly losing credibility, both at home and abroad. Image professionals were needed to manage J1’s propaganda media amid the war.
Instead of selecting experienced reporters, Ateny Wek surreptitiously selected a guy and three ladies, all of whom did not have Journalism experience or study media. They would immediately join J1 — and there — they were oriented and told by those already in J1 that Ateny Wek doesn’t accompany the President on foreign trips and, therefore, depends on our “collection” (his share of reporter’s trip allowance). A senior J1 cameraman told the newcomers that if they started traveling with the president, they should be giving something to Ateny’s bodyguard, before they travel or after return. He tacitly said Ateny does not personally receive “our collection’’ but gets it from his bodyguard at home. “Collection” here is a euphemism for bribes.
His exploitation of J1 Press Unit Reporters is financial and sexual:
Ateny Wek has been using one boy who’s a J1 English News reporter to solicit money from government officials who run plum or financial institutions: Finance, NilePet, Revenue and Taxation, Bank of South Sudan, Customs and business officials. This boy ambushes officials when they’re being appointed and sworn in. He and Ateny Wek use their media role at J1, especially during news coverage of swearing-in ceremonies, where they hang around pretending to be setting up audiovisual equipment. These government officials upon seeing themselves on TV after their appointment become vulnerable to Ateny Wek’s financial requests. Ateny always sends this boy, whom many believe is his biological son out of wedlock.
South Sudanese may be wondering why Ateny Wek has not traveled with Salva Kiir outside the country since 2015: I do not wish to delve into that. The boy and Ateny run a financial scheme alongside their J1 press job. While I do not want to jeopardise my colleagues job at J1, it should be known that Ateny Wek Ateny is a tax collector, who’s aggressively corrupted, used, and dispensed money from the poor press Unit team since this office was first established in 2013. Ateny’s sexual proclivities are publicly known, which I do not think I need to raise any red flag over. He’s recruited women who’re glaringly incapable to be professional journalists; however, their looks are some of Ateny’s desired competencies!
Chol Duang is a former TV journalist, a literacy activist and opinion writer.