GENEVA, Switzerland, August 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — “The frequency of attacks and violence committed against journalists and media workers in South Sudan is increasing, and has reached a critical level,” two United Nations human rights experts warned today.
The UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, condemned the latest killing of a South Sudanese journalist, the seventh so far this year.
On 19 August 2015, Peter Moi, who worked for various newspapers and media outlets in South Sudan, was shot dead in Juba by two unidentified assailants as he made his way home from work. Earlier in May, James Raeth, a radio journalist based in Aboko, was also killed in an attack by unknown perpetrators.
Three days prior to Mr. Moi’s killing, President Kiir had reportedly threatened journalists and media workers at a news conference and declared that freedom of press does not mean that they may work against their country.
“Like others, I was outraged by the remarks attributed to President Kiir”, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression said. “However, I take note of the recent statement by the South Sudanese Information Minister denying any intention on the part of the authorities to target journalists.”
“I unequivocally condemn the recent killings of journalists in South Sudan. Any threats or attacks are completely unacceptable and only embolden perpetrators to commit further violence against journalists, with impunity,” Mr. Kaye added. “I urge the country’s authorities to promote a safe and enabling environment for them to perform their work independently and without interference.”
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions further added: “I am deeply disturbed by the allegations of attacks against journalists in South Sudan. The brutal killing of Mr. Moi and Mr. Raeth need to be urgently and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be held accountable.”
“Political leaders have a duty to refrain from making provocative statements against journalists,” Mr. Heyns noted. “The Government must take measures to prevent such killings and to conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations of all cases of summary executions of journalists in the country since the beginning of the year.”
The human rights experts warned that targeting media independence produces a ‘chilling effect’ that could deter the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to seek, impart and receive information. They urged the Government of South Sudan to take immediate steps to allow space for open debate and freedom of expression.
The experts are in contact with the South Sudanese authorities to clarify the issues in question.