Newspaper reporter Peter Julius Moi was shot dead on Wednesday in South Sudan days after the president is alleged to have made a thinly veiled threat against journalists who “work against the country”.
Colleagues at his paper, the bi-monthly New Nation, believe it was a targeted killing. His money and phone were not taken by the gunmen.
Moi, who was murdered after leaving work in the capital Juba, also reported for a business weekly, The Corporate. He was the seventh journalist to be killed this year in a country devastated by a prolonged conflict between government forces and armed groups.
Journalists pointed out that South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, had said on Sunday, – before leaving for peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia: “Freedom of the press does not mean you work against the country.
“If anybody among them [journalists] does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time.”
Tom Rhodes, the east Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), called Kiir’s statement “a very foreboding sign.”
He condemned the “senseless killing” and said Moi’s death “will inevitably cast a pall over journalists in South Sudan, inducing them to self-censor as a means of survival.
“More and more independent voices are being silenced in South Sudan at this critical time in the country’s history when the public desperately needs independent, impartial information.”
Oliver Modi, chairman of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, who described Moi’s killing as “intentional”, said: “Today it is Peter, tomorrow is someone else. We are being taken one by one.”
South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013, when Kiir accused his former deputy of plotting a coup. It set off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
Earlier this month, security forces shut down two newspapers and a radio station after they reportedly promoted a proposed peace agreement that the government has since dismissed as a “sellout”.
On Wednesday, the US proposed that the UN security council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan after Kiir’s decision not to sign the peace deal.