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In South Sudan, journalists are being killed with impunity

A microphone is seen inside Bakhita Radio station in Juba, 28 May 2012
A microphone is seen inside Bakhita Radio station in Juba, 28 May 2012

REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian

This statement was originally published by ADMISS on 4 October 2016.

The Association for Media Development In South Sudan (AMDISS), The Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) and the National Editors Forum (NEF) urge the authorities in South Sudan to investigate the killings and constant harassment of journalists.

The media fraternity was shocked by the news of the demise of veteran journalist Isaac Vuni, who – according to his family – was kidnapped by uniformed people at gunpoint in June 2016 at his home in Kerepi village, along the Juba-Nimule Road. He was found dead three months later, but the identities of the kidnappers and killers remain unknown.

On September 23rd 2016, the media fraternity also lost a young journalist by the name of Oketa Benson, in a car accident involving a water tank vehicle. He was rushed to hospital, but unfortunately, he died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

This follows the recent killing of two journalists in July 2016: John Gatluk, who was working for The Radio Community (a Internews funded institution) and Kamula Duro, who was a cameraman in the Office of the President.

Since the beginning of the violent conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, the media fraternity lost twelve (12) journalists, some of whom were targeted because of their work as journalists, but others who were victims of circumstances.

Besides losing journalists, the media has also gone through rough times since December 2013. For example, twenty seven (27) journalists were arrested, some were released and others are still in detention. Seven (7) media institutions were closed down, but only two were reopened, three (3) journalists were kidnapped, detained in unknown location, tortured and later dumped near graveyards, two (2) journalists kidnapped and are still missing, several journalists fled the country for fear of their lives, one (1) journalist was shot and wounded, forty five (45) cases of intimidation of both media houses and individual journalists, summons and questioning of both media houses and journalists are extremely high.

AMDISS, UJOSS, NEF are deeply concerned about the alarming level of impunity for crimes against journalists and the crackdown on media houses and call on authorities in South Sudan to investigate the killings and constant harassment of journalists and bring the killers to book and end the harassment.

We also call on the authorities in South Sudan to reopen all the media houses that are still shut and provide a conducive media friendly environment for journalists to carry out their duties. We also call on the government of South Sudan to provide safety for journalists as it is the responsibility of the government to provide security for all citizens. The media fraternity remains committed to provide the much needed platform for peace, reconciliation and development of South Sudan.

It is clear that past investigations into killings of journalists have not yielded any fruitful results. We therefore appeal to the authorities concerned to include representatives of journalists unions, editors and media associations in any committee formed to investigate any incidence involving journalists.

Contact persons:
1. Alfred Taban (AMDISS Chairperson) Tel: +211(0) 956 988 087 Email: [email protected]
2. Oliver Modi Philip (UJOSS Chairperson) Tel: +211 (0) 957 100 855 Email: [email protected]
3. Koang Pal Chang (NEF Chairperson) Tel: +211 (0)912 814 414 Email: [email protected]

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