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South Sudan’s Kiir denies issuing threats to kill journalists

August 22, 2015 (JUBA) - The office of the South Sudanese presidency has denied reports that the country’s leader threatened to kill journalists working against the state.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir speaks at a public rally in Juba on 18 March 2015 (Photo: AP/Jason Patinkin)

The presidency said president Salva Kiir “was quoted out of context”.

“However, the office of the president would like to categorically reject this attribution of such dangerous statement to the President of the Republic in what appeared to be smearing campaign against President Salva Kiir Mayardit,” partly reads the statement.

The spokesperson the presidency, Ateny Wek Ateny, said Kiir, while addressing reporters last week, only urged journalists to observe ethics when doing their work.

“And that they must not forget at the end of the day that South Sudan was their country. They should not betray the country which killed people during the liberation struggle,” explained Ateny.

President Kiir, his spokesperson stressed, was a keen protector of the right to freedom of expression and fundamental human rights.

“We therefore, would like to assure the international community and all journalists to discard this serious misquote of the president’s intention. Nothing shall harm a journalist when going about journalistic profession,” said the presidency spokesperson.

He said journalistic reporting is based on professional ethics and journalism codes of conduct and that the government cherishes freedom of expression and will protect all journalists in the country.

“The President of the republic didn’t have any intention to threat, or to effect killing of any life. If a journalist has failed to render journalistic duties in accordance with professional practice of Journalism, the best place for them is to face a libel either in tort or criminal law”, said Ateny.

The statement from the presidency comes days after a South Sudanese journalist, Moi Julius Peter, was gunned down by unknown assailants in the capital, Juba.

The presidency statement did not, however, mention anything regarding the killing.

President Kiir’s latest remarks allegedly targeting journalists as attracted serious criticisms from media freedom groups and diplomats from across the world.

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ representative in East Africa, Tom Rhodes said, “The leader of any country threatening to kill journalists is extremely dangerous and utterly unacceptable”

“We call on President Salva Kiir to retract his comments immediately” he added.