South Sudan journalists, international community condemn reporter’s killing following president’s ominous threats

EMBATTLED: President of Sudan Salva Kiir is under pressure to retract threatening statements to the press, and to sign the peace deal to end the 20-month conflict

EMBATTLED: President of Sudan Salva Kiir is under pressure to retract threatening statements to the press, and to sign the peace deal to end the 20-month conflict

In the wake of a shooting death of a local journalist, media houses and journalists in South Sudan are protesting his killing claiming President Salva Kiir’s recent threats to the press led to his demise.

Peter Julius Moi was found shot dead by the road side near his home in Juba Thursday morning days after President Kiir warned “enemy” journalists to stop working against their country or face the consequences.

“”Freedom of the press does not mean you work against your country,” Kiir told journalists Sunday. “If anybody among them [journalists] does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time,” President Kiir said last weekend on his way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the peace talks.

Angered and saddened by the president’s statement and their colleague’s killing journalists and media outlets in South Sudan have staged a “24-hour blackout” in protest.

Newspapers and radio stations across the country will not publish or broadcast for 24 hours starting 11am Friday through 11am Saturday.

“We hope to raise awareness among the readers and listeners of radios and newspapers in South Sudan that we 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,” the chairman of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), Alfred Taban, said.

South Sudan government has said the president’s statement was misconstrued and that it had nothing to do with the reporter’s killing.

Nonetheless, the United States, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other international agencies and governments have condemned Moi’s killing and the president’s remarks.

The US state department Spokesman John Kirby said that the US was very concerned with and following Moi’s killing and that “we are obviously deeply concerned by President Kiir’s comments regarding journalists earlier this week, and we call on him to disavow those words. The United States is committed to supporting freedom of expression, including of the press. Space for media, civil society organizations, and independent voices and views are crucial to building democracy and peace.”

Peter Julius Moi is the seventh journalist to be killed this year in South Sudan, and according to press freedom watchdog Reporters without borders (RSF), the country is 125th out of 180 worst countries in terms of journalists’ safety.

Journalists’ threats aside, the South Sudanese President is also under intense international and regional pressure to sign the peace deal in the next few days or face sanctions. Kiir declined to sign the peace accord that was signed by his rival Riek Machar earlier this week in Addis Ababa,

The United States has already submitted a draft proposal on an arms embargo amongst members of the UN Security Council for a vote as Washington maintains pressure on Juba to sign the deal that if implemented, would effectively end the 20-month conflict in South Sudan.