JOHANNESBURG – Government agents ordered a journalist working for The Associated Press out of South Sudan on Tuesday, taking him to the airport in Juba and putting him aboard a flight to Uganda.
Justin Lynch, an American freelance journalist who had reported on human rights violations in the violence-plagued nation for the past six months, said he was arrested by members of South Sudan's National Security Service who temporarily seized his mobile phones and allowed him to pack a bag.
The agents told him only that he was being deported for his journalistic work, Lynch said after leaving the country.
Lynch, 25, from Saratoga, New York, has been working for AP in South Sudan since July. He recently reported on evidence of ethnic violence in the country and on the warning by a U.N. official that South Sudan is at risk of genocide.
Speaking from New York, AP executives defended Lynch's reporting and said they were seeking an explanation from the government.
"Any move to suppress legitimate journalism and truthful reporting shedding light on humanitarian crimes is wrong and should be condemned. We hope that the government of South Sudan will reconsider its actions," said Ian Phillips, AP's vice president for international news.
South Sudan Minister of Information Michael Makuei said he had no knowledge of the deportation and would look into the matter. Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek also said he would investigate and issue a statement when he had the facts.