As peace talks resume South Sudan continues its assault on press freedom

By Jonathan Rozen/CPJ Africa Research Associate on February 2, 2018 11:32 AM ET

ceasefire agreement signed on December 21 between the South Sudanese government and opposition forces has revived a 2015 peace process and brought hope that the conflict will not persist into its fifth year. The agreement includes obligations to “ensure protection of media” and “[c]ease all forms of harassment of the media.” Yet, ahead of another round of talks scheduled for February 5, the government has continued its years’ long campaign of intimidating journalists.

Authorities have imposed bureaucratic red tape; denied journalists access to certain areas and, in some cases, the whole country; threatened reprisal for critical coverage; and created conditions that do not promote accountability and sustainable peace. The result is that international journalists are prevented from covering conditions inside the country and some local journalists self-censor for fear of reprisal, CPJ has found.

The government has defended its actions as a reasonable response to unwarranted criticism. “There are agitators sending negative messages to the social media, to the international community, that Juba is insecure,” Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Minister of Information, told CPJ. In response to remarks by President Salva Kiir on January 1 that called for an end to reports that could hinder the peace process, Makeui added, “Of course, this includes the media, whether it is national or international.”

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