JUBA - A South Sudanese journalist has been shot dead in Juba, days after President Salva Kiir threatened to kill reporters who “work against the country.”
The body of 27-year-old Moi Peter Julius, a political reporter for The Corporate newspaper, was found in a residential area of Juba late Wednesday.
Peter had been shot several times. Police said his personal possessions, including his phone, identification papers and money, were not taken, indicating that robbery was not a motive in the shooting.
Peter’s father, Julius Kilong, said he was working the night shift when he got word that his son had been killed. Kilong said Peter was “shot from behind and fell.”
'This country will kill people'
Peter was gunned down three days after President Kiir warned journalists that “freedom of the press does not mean that you work against your country. If anybody does not know that this country will kill people, we will demonstrate on them.”
Kiir made the statement just before he left for Addis Ababa on Sunday for the final hours of talks to end South Sudan’s 20-month conflict.
Mr. Kiir was the only party to the talks who refused to sign a peace deal.
The United States called on Mr. Kiir to take back his threat against journalists.
"We are obviously deeply concerned by President Kiir's comments regarding journalists earlier this week, and we call on him to disavow those words," State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
Oliver Modi, the head of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan, said Peter’s death illustrates the dangers that journalists face in South Sudan. “Today, it’s Peter, tomorrow it’s someone else,” Modi said.
“We are being taken one by one. I appeal to all the media houses, to all journalists in South Sudan to lay down their pens, their papers and cameras and have three days of mourning,” he said.
Peter was the seventh journalist to be killed this year in South Sudan. Five journalists died in a roadside ambush in Western Bahr el Ghazal in January and another journalist was killed in Jonglei state in May.
“The numbers speak for themselves, that things are getting more and more dangerous for journalists,” Tom Rhodes, the East Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said.
“My fear is that as political uncertainty continues with this ongoing peace process and ongoing conflict, we’re not going to see that trend changing any time soon,” he said.