World

South Sudan freed UN journalist held 2 years without charge

South Sudan has released a United Nations journalist held for two and a half years without trial, the U.N. announced Friday.

George Livio was arrested in August 2014 because of his work and was not charged with any crime. U.N. officials feared he would be accused of treason, which they said carries the death penalty.

A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The U.N. did not give a reason for Livio's release, but the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, has been negotiating with the government for his freedom.

Livio had been kept in South Sudan's most notorious prison, the National Security Service compound in the capital, Juba. That's according to a Danish businessman and former U.N. de-mining worker, Henrik Tobiesen, who was detained there for over two months before being released in late November.

The U.N. on Friday said two other officials have been held in South Sudan without trial since 2014, but it did not give their names.

South Sudan, which faces both civil war and famine, has cracked down on media. Newspaper articles often appear with entire sections blank, evidence of national security censors.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says five reporters have been murdered since the country gained independence in 2011.

Livio was one of 35 men that Amnesty International last year said were being held illegally and without charge in South Sudan, with no access to a lawyer. The rights group said there has been an increase in arbitrary detentions since the country's civil war broke out in 2013, with most detainees suspected to have links with rebel groups.

South Sudan's government in the past has denied holding political prisoners.