South Sudan conflict continues to fuel attacks on media, civil society


Respect for freedom of association has steadily deteriorated in South Sudan following a resurgence of violence in July, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians targeted through deliberate killings and rape. In the wake of the renewed conflict, civil society organisations and media houses have been threatened with deregistration, as their working environment has become increasingly constrained. There is growing fear of harassment, arrest and attack amongst activists. Several civil society members reported being threatened and intimidated by government authorities following a meeting with the UN Security Council delegation during their visit to Juba in September. Pervasive impunity and insecurity are also fuelling attacks on civil society. On 8th September, civil society activist Emmanuel Wani was shot and killed although the exact circumstances of his death are unclear.

Many South Sudanese civilians have been imprisoned without charge, access to legal representation or visits from their families. In Yei, 22 youths were released after being held for several months in poor conditions in military barracks. The former governor of Wau state, Elias Waya Nyipuoch, remains in detention without charge over three months after he was arrested by military police on 26th June.


South Sudanese authorities continue to routinely violate freedom of expression. In September, the UN-mandated Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan completed their first mission to the country and noted their concern for “media freedom and the continued intimidation and harassment of journalists and media houses.”

On 14th September, South Sudan’s National Security Service indefinitely ordered closed daily print publication the Nation Mirror, leaving the Juba Monitor as the only independent national English-language newspaper operating in the country. Both newspapers had withstood numerous attempts by the state to censor their publications in the preceding months.

In recent years, South Sudan has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, who regularly face severe security risks. On 26th September, the body of freelance journalist Issac Vuni was found. He and his brother were abducted in June and the circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear. Vuni is the second journalist to be killed in South Sudan in 2016.

On 25th October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned of 'rising ethnic rhetoric, hate speech and incitement to violence against certain ethnic groups.' He said:

'Hateful ethnic rhetoric in South Sudan – particularly if it is exploited for political purposes – can have devastating consequences for entire communities, quickly spiralling into a cycle of revenge attacks...I urge President Salva Kiir and all political and community leaders with influence to urgently and unambiguously condemn the incitement to violence and to take urgent measures to defuse the tensions.'