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South Sudan arrests journalist over critical reporting, paper shut: rights group

January 8, 2016

Authorities in South Sudan have arrested a journalist who criticised the government’s handling of a two-year civil war and whose paper has since been shut down, rights groups and colleagues said Friday.

Joseph Afandi, a journalist for the Arabic daily newspaper El-Tabeer (“Expression”), was arrested on December 30 by security forces, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

His arrest followed an opinion article criticising the government’s actions over the past two years of civil war, the US-based watchdog said, adding the newspaper had not appeared since.

Colleagues said they had had no news of Afandi since he was arrested.

El-Tabeer only began printing late last year after a previous newspaper, Al-Rai, run by the same editor, was shut down.

“No journalist should be jailed for doing his job, which includes the right to publish or broadcast critical observations about public figures and institutions,” the CPJ said in a statement.

Rights groups have accused the security forces of cracking down on journalists, suffocating debate on how to end a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Seven journalists were killed last year, some caught up in fighting in the war, but also including a reporter shot in August in an apparently targeted attack.

International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks South Sudan as the 125th worst nation out of 180.

The civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.

Despite a peace deal, the fighting continues. The conflict now involves multiple militia forces driven by local agendas or revenge attacks.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.