The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement today (21 August) on his increasing concern about the violence and intimidation suffered by journalists, the free press and civil society in South Sudan:
News reports on the death of journalist Peter Julius Moi, who was shot dead in Juba yesterday, have shocked me to the core. Worse still, he is not the only journalist to die a violent death in South Sudan since the beginning of the year.
Peter Julius Moi’s assassination follows hot on the heels of unacceptable attempts to intimidate journalists and the closure of “The Citizen” and “Al Ray” newspapers by the Government of South Sudan at the beginning of the month. This gives me great cause for concern. It cannot be that people who are committed to peaceful coexistence, transparency and the truth are persecuted and intimidated.
I call on the South Sudanese Government to respect the freedom of the press, opinion and speech and to ensure that journalists are free to practice their profession without risk to life and limb. Suppressing an open debate is counter-productive particularly with regard to the national peace process in South Sudan.
South Sudan must respect human rights and return to the path of peace, democratisation and economic development.
South Sudan became independent from the Sudan on 9 July 2011. Since December 2013, a bloody conflict has been raging in the oil-rich country between those who support President Salva Kiir and those who back rebel leader Riek Machar, both of whom claim the right to govern. The regional organisation IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), the African Union (AU) and various neighbouring countries of South Sudan brokered a peace agreement between the parties to the conflict in Addis Ababa last Monday (17 August). Among other things, the deal provides for power-sharing among the parties to the conflict in the states and for the demilitarisation of the capital, Juba. Rebel leader Machar has signed the agreement. However, President Kiir’s Government has requested 15 days for consultations before signing.
The journalist Peter Julius Moi was shot dead yesterday (20 August). The circumstances of the incident remain unclear. Numerous journalists who have used their media to call for an immediate peace agreement and the inclusion of civil society in the government of national unity have recently received threats and demands for them to cease their coverage. Moreover, the South Sudanese Government closed a radio station (“Free Voice”) and two newspaper publishing houses (“The Citizen” and “Al Ray”) at the beginning of August without stating the grounds for doing so.