JUBA Feb 15 The United Nations is alarmed over
increasing threats and violence against journalists and human
rights activists in South Sudan, the U.N. envoy in the African
country said on Friday.
Reporters often complain of hassle and detention in South
Sudan which broke away from Sudan in 2011 after a 2005 peace
deal that ended decades of civil war.
In 2013, South Sudan, a country ruled by former rebels and
without a media law, slipped 13 places to 124 out of 179 on the
world press freedom index compiled by media watchdog Reporters
"UNMISS (U.N. Mission in South Sudan) is deeply disturbed by
reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks
against journalists, civil society and human rights activists,"
Hilde Johnson, the U.N. envoy in South Sudan, told reporters.
Johnson said authorities should speed up an investigation
into the murder of outspoken newspaper columnist and government
critic Diing Chan Awuol in December, the first killing of a
journalist in the new republic.
Unknown assailants shot dead Awuol after he wrote an opinion
piece in the Paris-based Sudan Tribune news website calling on
the government to foster better ties with its old foe Sudan, and
refrain from supporting rebel groups there.
This was a sensitive issue because media in South Sudan
usually follow the government line that it does not support
rebels operating in Sudan, rejecting accusations by Khartoum.
In January, two U.N. human rights investigators who had been
looking into reports of threats against another journalist were
detained and interrogated for several hours by South Sudan's
military intelligence, Johnson said.
"Such acts are grave violations of the agreements the
government has signed and the privileges and immunities of
United Nations personnel, and we have protested accordingly."
In 2011, South Sudan shut down the English-language
newspaper Destiny after it criticised President Salva Kiir for
allowing his daughter to marry a foreigner.
In January, the government of Western Bahr El Ghazal state
detained two senior staff at the state broadcaster for several
days after the station failed to cover Kiir's visit to the town
of Wau in December.
(Editing by Ulf Laessing and Mark Heinrich)