Government threatens free press while December ceasefire is violated

In Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom in the World Index, South Sudan ranked second worst out of the 49 countries designated as 'not free', with Syria ranking the worst. South Sudan's 'not free' ranking stems from the disastrous effects of the ongoing civil war, instability, repression of political opposition, and a crackdown on free media. 

Although the South Sudanese government signed a ceasefire with rebel groups on 21st December 2017, at least five incidents of violations of this ceasefire have been reported, for which both government and rebel forces have been blamed. For example, an attack, allegedly by rebel groups, in the Koch village in former Unity State on 24th December 2017 left 15 dead and 26 wounded. Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, condemned the ongoing violations of the ceasefire in a joint statement on 12th January 2018. In mid-January, civil society leaders called on the Inter-Governmental Organisation on Development (IGAD) regional block to improve the peace talks and hold those who break the ceasefire accountable.

In a report issued on 15th January 2018, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the body that monitors the ceasefire, identified 154 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence committed by soldiers between February and December 2017. The report noted that sexual violence by soldiers and security personnel remains prevalent in Juba and the surrounding Central Equatoria region.

Expression

Speaking at a forum on Freedom of Expression and Journalists' Safety in Juba on 18th January 2018, Sapana Lado - Director of Media Compliance at the South Sudan Media Authority - accused reporters of acting as foreign agents and fueling the crisis in the country through biased reporting. Lado also warned journalists to stop “assassinating the character of this country and its government”. He also threatened to take journalists critical of the government to court. Earlier in January, President Salva Kiir warned foreign envoys and local media against publishing negative reports about the country, blaming them and their reporting for delaying a peaceful transition in the beleaguered nation.

Association

In its Humanitarian Bulletin released on 18th January, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 28 aid workers were killed in South Sudan in 2017, while a total of 1,159 humanitarian access incidents were documented in 2017, a significant increase compared to a total of 908 and 909 in 2016 and 2015 respectively. The incidents included violence against humanitarian personnel and assets, such as the targeting of aid workers through robbery, looting, threats, and harassment. At least 95 aid workers have been killed since the crisis began in December 2013.