February 16, 2013 (JUBA) – The head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Friday, expressed deep concerns over reports of threats, intimidation, and attacks against journalists, civil society, and human rights activists in the country.
- A group picture of South Sudanese journalists with their lawyer. (L-R) Ngor Garang, Dhieu Mathok, Molana Agok Makur and Dengdit Ayok (ST photo)
Hilde Johnson, said such practices, greatly undermine people’s right to enjoyment of their basic rights and freedoms of expression in society
“UNMISS is deeply disturbed by reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks against journalist, civil society and human rights activists,” said Johnson at a press briefing in Juba, the South Sudan capital.
Significant efforts must now be made by the government to address this trend and to ensure that people can enjoy basic rights, such as freedom of expression", she added.
South Sudan, Reporters Without Borders said in its latest world press freedom index, ranked at 124 out of 179 countries considered, falling 12 places from the previous year.
In recent years, journalists in the new nation, which still lacks media legislation, have complained of constant harassment and intimidation, mainly at the hands of the security agencies.
Last year unknown assailants gunned down a renowned South Sudanese writer and blogger, Ding Chan Awuol, at his home in Gudele, located west of the country’s capital.
The government says that two suspects have been arrested in connection with the killing of the writer, popularly known as Isaiah Abraham.
"…we urge the national authorities to expedite the investigation into the killing of Isaiah Abraham and bring the perpetrators to justice," said Johnson, who is also the Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General.
In his new year’s address, President Salva Kiir, expressed concern about cases of harassment, abuse and arbitrary arrests, meted against people said to be critical of government policies.
"There are those who are being threatened allegedly for using their voices, which sometimes are critical to the government policies. They have experienced harassment, abuse and arbitrary arrests. This is unacceptable. This is not what we fought for," partly read Kiir’s message.
He added, "Reneging on the principles of our struggle now is disrespecting the memory of our martyrs who fought and died for our freedom”.
South Sudan attained self-rule in July 2011, after its population overwhelmingly voted for separation in a self-determination vote. The plebiscite was a key part a 2005-peace deal, which ended over two decades of north-south Sudan civil war.