6 December 2012

South Sudan: Online Journalist Murdered

press release

December 5, 2012 - Authorities in South Sudan should thoroughly investigate the murder of an online journalist, identify the motive, and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol was shot dead by unidentified men in Gudele, a suburb of Juba, the capital, early today, according to a member of Awuol's family and a local journalist citing another relative. The sources said the gunmen came to Awuol's home, asked him to come outside, and then shot him dead and took his cellphone.

Awuol was a contributor to news websites, including Sudan Tribune, Gurtong, and SudaneseOnline, typically writing opinion articles critical of the South Sudanese leadership and their relationship with Sudanese authorities, local journalists told CPJ. The journalists said he had been threatened several times in the past and had received anonymous phone calls warning him to stop writing.

Local journalists told CPJ that Awuol could have been targeted in connection with his online columns. In his last article, published on November 27 in the Sudan Tribune, he urged authorities to foster a better relationship with Sudan and refrain from supporting Sudanese rebel groups.

Although South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 after a long civil war, internal conflicts continue to rage in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan where rebels are fighting for increased civil rights and greater autonomy from the Khartoum government.

Police Inspector General Acuil Tito told local journalists today that police would be investigating the murder.

"By getting to the bottom of this murder and bringing the perpetrators to justice, authorities in South Sudan can demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law and freedom of expression," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes.

Despite often being critical of South Sudanese leaders, Awuol was a former official in the rebel army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and a strong supporter of Africa's newest country's independence in July 2011, local journalists told CPJ. Awuol is survived by two wives and five children.

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