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Journalists further targeted in South Sudan – UN rights experts warn violence against the media is on the rise

GENEVA (27 August 2015) –  “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.

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – South Sudan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SSIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Caroline Meenagh (+41 22 917 9580 / cmeenagh@ohchr.org) or Marcelo Daher (+41 22 917 9431 / mdaher@ohchr.org) or write to freedex@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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