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South Sudan deports US reporter for government criticism

Justin Lynch was one of the last international journalists allowed in the conflict-ridden country. He says he was kicked out for being critical of the government in his reporting.

A US journalist reporting for the Associated Press was deported from South Sudan, the news agency said on Wednesday, for writing about human rights violations and being critical of the government. Justin Lynch was one of the last foreign reporters living in the war-torn nation.

"Yesterday I was arrested and deported by members of South Sudan's National Security Service. The officers did not officially present me with a reason for my arrest and deportation, but repeatedly said that my reporting was too critical of the government. This is a violation of press freedom," Lynch wrote on Twitter.

"As an international journalist, it is an unfortunate reality that I am privileged compared to my brave South Sudanese colleagues, who are frequently the victim of intimidation or even death," he added.

The only comment from the government in Juba was a statement from a presidential spokesman which said they were not aware of the deportation.

Government targets press

Journalists have repeatedly complained of harassment from authorities in conflict-ridden South Sudan. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, five reporters were killed while working in the country in 2015.

After winning independence from Khartoum in 2011, South Sudan erupted into civil war in 2013 when the long-simmering feud between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar boiled over into armed conflict. A tentative peace deal reached in 2015, which saw Machar briefly reinstated before fleeing the country, has remained shaky at best.

Meanwhile, as both sides have been accused of war crimes such as ethnic cleansing and attacking aid workers, journalists have found it more and more difficult to report on the atrocities due to a government clampdown. The Juba Monitor newspaper has faced repeated temporary shutdowns for being critical of Kiir's administration, while the popular Eye Radio station was shuttered permanently in November. Several other newspapers have been shut and editors routinely rounded up for police questioning.

As the news of Lynch's deportation broke, his employer AP decried the lack of transparency in a region in need of international understanding. The agency called on the government to reverse its decision.

es/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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