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South Sudan army accuses media of "unfair" criticisms

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April 07, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s army (SPLA) says it is receiving "unfair" criticisms from the locals due to increasing attacks on journalists and insecurity in major towns.

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Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) at Jonglei’s Bor airport in January 2014 (AFP)

Lt. Gen. James Ajuongo Mawut, the army’s deputy chief of staff for logistics said reporters should crosscheck facts before publishing negative stories capable of troubling the army.

"If you writing a story about SPLA, why don’t you contact our information department instead of publishing lies?" said Ajuongo, while opening a one day workshop on access to justice organised by Centre for Human Rights Lawyers in Juba on Wednesday.

He was responding to veteran journalist Alfred Taban’s submission that eight journalists have been killed in the country since January 2015, while three were detained and allegedly tortured by security agents.

"We hold the government responsible because it has sworn to protect the lives and properties of the citizens. Failure to do exactly that job and blame on the ’unknown gunmen’ is completely unacceptable," said Taban.

He said five newspapers were forced to close over the last 12 months and one closed forever.

Taban said government’s failure to make public it’s investigation into the killing of five journalists in Western Bahr El Ghazal in January 2015 and the killing and arbitrary arrest of reporters in Juba make it complicit in the crime targeting media practitioners in the country.

But Mawut disagreed, citing the publication in an unnamed newspaper last week, which reportedly alleged that President Salva Kiir visited the SPLA deputy chief of operation, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo which was a "lie" as a clear example of unethical journalism.

"The media here is simply interested in negative stories and don’t put efforts to crosscheck fact. In another way, they are causing problems," he said.

The workshop, that brought advocates, international and national organisations as well as government and members of the diplomatic missions discussed how to end arbitrary detain, delayed justice and challenges facing the judiciary in South Sudan as well as remedies.

Participants urged government to respect human rights, including speedy access to justice. On the other hand, however, government officials argued that there was a general decay in public order that requires response from individual citizens.

(ST)

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