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Robert Cusack

South Sudan's 'last foreign journalist' deported by military

Refugees flee fighting in February at a UN base in Malakal [Justin Lynch, AFP]

Date of publication: 8 December, 2016

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Critics say the government is fearful of independent coverage and scrutiny, as the UN fails to respond to fears of genocide.
The decision to expel the country's only independent journalist was made by the army, South Sudan's director general for information told The New Arab on Thursday.

Paul Kumbo, who is responsible for the accreditation and treatment of journalists, said Associated Press reporter Justin Lynch had been arrested by a faction in the military and that he had no further information.

"Ask the military for the reason," said Kumbo.

"Nobody knows – I don't know the reason – I'm not aware of the information in the newspapers."

Lynch said he was not given a reason for his arrest by members of the National Security Service on December 6, but was told that his reporting had been "too critical of the government".

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned Lynch's deportation to Uganda, saying the government "should cease interfering with journalists' ability to work freely".

"The expulsion of Justin Lynch is yet another illustration of how much President Salva Kiir's government fears independent media coverage," said Murithi Mutiga, a CPJ representative.

"South Sudan needs independent journalism now more than ever."

A large number of people on social media have criticised Lynch's expulsion, as it leaves the country without independent witnesses to alleged cases of ethnic cleansing.

A recent UN commission found that there was risk of genocide in the country as the country divides into tribal factions and soldiers attack civilians with impunity.

Read more: Could an arms embargo prevent genocide in South Sudan?

Associated Press said they were seeking an explanation from the government for their actions.

"Any move to suppress legitimate journalism and truthful reporting shedding light on humanitarian crimes is wrong and should be condemned," said Ian Phillips, AP's vice president for international news.

"We hope that the government of South Sudan will reconsider its actions." 

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