The South Sudanese National Security Service closed two newspapers in Juba on Tuesday without giving any written reasons.
In a press release, the Association for Media Development (AMDISS) confirmed the closure of the Citizen “following a verbal instruction” to stop printing from 4 August.
“There was neither reason nor duration provided for the shutdown according to the instruction,” reads the statement by AMDISS Chairman Alfred Taban.
AMDISS condemned the act saying it infringes on freedom of expression.
The Citizen newspaper, one of the oldest in the country, has recently been covering the IGAD peace proposal and the reactions by various stakeholders to this proposal.
The editor-in-chief of the newspaper Nhial Bol also wrote about the peace process.
In a recent editorial in the paper, Nhial wrote, “The decision by SPLM Chairman Comrade Salva Kiir, to form committees to discuss the Compromise agreement proposed by IGAD countries is a good decision but from my reading of the situation it seems our president is completely disregarding the views of South Sudanese on the matter of freedom of expressions, assemblies and rights to life.”
He further went on to say, “I am one of the few people who have the belief that Kiir and Riek have no ability to stop this war and I am convinced they will never meet the 17 August deadline because the issues between Kiir and Riek are similar to those issues between Farah Aidid and Ali Mahadi of Somalia.”
Nhial added, “Those who still remember these two generals who first fought to remove President Siad Bare should conclude that Kiir and Riek will end up in that situation similar to that of Somalia.”
Separately, an Arabic newspaper was also closed.
National Security Service ordered Al Rai newspaper to shut down until further notice.
The reason given was that one of the board members Lam Kuei allegedly left the country and joined the opposition.
National Security Service personnel also arrived at the offices of the media house Free Voice-South Sudan and told the staff to leave the office and lock the doors.
The office premises were also shared by Voice of America’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Free Voice Country Representative Luate Joseph said in a message sent to a media mailing list that the security personnel “locked up Free Voice offices… after shutdown of the Citizen newspaper.
EU condemns repression of press
The European Union Delegation in South Sudan has expressed ‘concern’ about the closure of media houses saying that it is “firmly opposed to any unjustified restrictions” on freedom of media and freedom of expression.
EU Delegation and the Heads of Mission of France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, The United Kingdom and the Heads of Mission of Canada, Norway and of Switzerland, called on authorities to guarantee freedom of expression.
“Freedom of media and freedom of expression are core principles of democracy. Free, diverse and independent media constitute one of the cornerstones of a democratic society by facilitating the free flow of information and ideas, and by ensuring transparency and accountability,” reads the statement.