The UN Mission in South Sudan stated in a report released on Thursday, February 22, that 102 journalists and rights activists had their right to free speech violated between July 2016 and December 2017. According to the report, 60 verified incidents occurred over the time period, mostly carried out by government security forces. Incidents included 58 arrests, 16 terminations, two deaths, and at least three media outlets being closed or suspended. While the majority of attacks targeted South Sudanese journalists some foreign correspondents were also affected, including 20 who were denied entry into the country after publishing reports the government disliked.
South Sudan has been wracked by years of political, interethnic, and intercommunal violence - exacerbated by border and oil revenue disputes with Sudan. Following the 2011 signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that gave the country its independence from Sudan, the predominantly north-south conflict has given way to a pattern of internal violence. Since December 2013, the country has experienced an intermittent civil war waged between the government of President Salva Kiir and the SPLA on one side, and the former Vice-President Riek Machar and the SPLA-IO on the other. The conflict has continued despite international support for state-building and peace-keeping - including the 12,000-strong United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), deployed since 2011. The number of South Sudanese citizens displaced by the conflict currently stands at some 3.5 million. Both sides in the conflict have grown hostile towards the independent media as reporters have criticized the disregard for the suffering of the South Sudanese people amidst the continued struggle for power.
Many Western governments advise against nonessential travel to South Sudan. Certain regions should be particularly avoided, including the states of Unity and Upper Nile, the north of Warrap state, parts of Eastern and Central Equatoria states, and areas along the border with the Central African Republic, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place.
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