Canadian journalist Sam Mednick has been forced to leave South Sudan after receiving notification on 23 October 2019 from the country’s Media Authority that her press pass has been revoked for six months on the grounds that she had “concocted misinformation intended to create panic and fear of [the] unknown.” The allegation was connected to her reporting on tensions increasing in the run-up to the formation of a unity government, planned for 12 November. AP has stated that it stands by Mednick and her story.
During her three years in the country, Mednick had reported extensively on subjects that would otherwise have received little international attention - such as the impact of the ongoing civil war. In the absence of an official investigation, her journalistic investigations into the killing by South Sudanese armed forces of British-American freelance journalist Christopher Allen in August 2017 have formed a crucial basis for his family’s legal case, alleging that war crimes were committed in the targeting of Allen and the treatment of his corpse. At least 10 journalists have been killed since South Sudan’s civil war erupted in December 2013.
“We are deeply concerned by Sam Mednick’s expulsion from South Sudan, following similar moves against other foreign correspondents in the country in recent years. Her reporting was a valuable source of information from South Sudan, where at least 10 journalists have been killed during the ongoing civil war. We call on the South Sudanese authorities to review this decision and ensure that all journalists are able to report freely and safely from the country,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
A number of other foreign correspondents have been expelled from South Sudan in recent years, including AP journalist Justin Lynch, who was arrested and deported in December 2016. In June 2017, the head of the Media Authority announced that 20 foreign journalists had been banned from working or continuing to work in the country for writing “unsubstantiated and unrealistic” stories that “insulted or degraded South Sudan and its people.”
South Sudan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.