The second journalist’s expulsion has come at a critical political moment, with a unity government due to be formed on 12 November, along with the expected return of Riek Machar, the historic leader of the opposition to President Salva Kiir.
French journalist Bastien Renouil, the France 24 TV news channel’s East Africa correspondent, was arrested on arrival in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, on 3 November and was expelled the next morning.
Renouil told RSF that officials questioned him about his previous reporting from South Sudan and threatened him with imprisonment. South Sudan’s Media Authority had nonetheless given him the go-ahead to visit the country.
His expulsion was preceded by that of AP correspondent Sam Mednick, a Canadian reporter. Based in South Sudan for the past three years, Mednick had to leave after being notified on 23 October that her press pass had been revoked because of a story about tension in the run-up to the formation of a unity government.
“Peace and democracy cannot take hold unless the freedom to inform is guaranteed,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “By expelling foreign journalists, the South Sudanese authorities are liable to jeopardize the peace process. We urge them to end these arbitrary expulsions and to review their recent decisions, so that these two journalists, who did nothing wrong, are free to resume their reporting.”
The authorities have often expelled journalists since a civil war began in 2013. The Media Authority announced in June 2017 that it was refusing to issue or renew visas for 20 foreign journalists because their reporting was “unsubstantiated” or had “insulted” South Sudan.
South Sudan is also one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters. Ten journalists have been killed with complete impunity since 2013. No serious investigation has ever been carried out to identify the perpetrators and circumstances of the August 2017 murder of Christopher Allen, a freelance reporter with British and US dual nationality,.
South Sudan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.