South Sudan media blackout after reporter shot dead

A man reads a copy of the Juba Monitor, with a heading referring to the killing of South Sudanese journalist Peter Moi of The New Nation newspaper, on August 21, 2015 in Juba. AFP PHOTO / SAMIR BOL

JUBA: South Sudanese journalists held a 24-hour news blackout Friday after their colleague was shot dead, days after President Salva Kiir publicly threatened to kill journalists who reported "against the country."

Journalists demanded an investigation into the reporter's killing, while rights groups have said the government should clarify the comments made last week by Kiir.

Newspaper journalist Peter Moi was shot twice in the back Wednesday in an apparently targeted attack, the seventh journalist killed this year in the war-ravaged country. The gunman left Moi's telephone and money in his pockets.

"Freedom of the press does not mean you work against the country," Kiir told journalists Sunday as he left for peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"If anybody among them (journalists) does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time."

Journalists gathered Friday to remember their colleague as the blackout kicked in.

"We hope to raise awareness that journalists are not happy with the way the government has been handling things... and to put pressure on the government to move quickly to get the killer of this boy," said Alfred Taban, head of the Association of Media Development in South Sudan, AMDISS.

The government of the world's youngest nation Monday refused to ink a power-sharing deal signed by rebels, despite the threat of sanctions and mounting international frustration at the failure to seal a peace accord.

The ruling party had planned to hold demonstrations Friday to show their opposition to the deal. However, the rally did not go ahead, although it was not clear if the media blackout had swayed the organisers.

International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks South Sudan as the 125th worst nation out of 180.

"It is absolutely criminal for a president to threaten his country's journalists with death," RSF said in a statement. "Certain words can kill, especially when uttered by a president."

South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.

"More and more independent voices are being silenced in South Sudan at this critical time in the country's history, when the public desperately needs independent, impartial information," said the CPJ's Tom Rhodes.





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