April 5, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s independent news television station Citizen TV has gone off air, allegedly due to security conditions introduced in the capital, Juba, this week, its managing director announced on Saturday.
- Nhial Bol Aken, The Citizen’s editor-in-chief, in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, on 12 December 2010 (ST)
Nhial Bol Akeen, the editor-in-chief of both Citizen TV and the English-language The Citizen newspaper, told Sudan Tribune that management had decided to suspend the operation of its twin television station until further notice, citing restrictions and other difficulties it faces in covering news, as well as restrictions on the movement of its staff.
“No authority has told us to stop, but [the] situation necessitated taking this painful decision. There were difficulties and restrictions that it became difficult to manage night shifts for our staff. We had motorbikes but which could not move because of the recent restrictions on the movement of the motorbikes,” Akeen exclusively told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
He cited the arrest of one of his journalists by authorities last week, allegedly after he was found in an area deemed out of bounds for motorbikes in Juba town.
“The newspaper will continue to operate normally but we decided to suspend the operation of the television [station] because we felt that we could not afford the night shift for the staff,” Akeen said.
The head of Central Equatoria state’s traffic police issued an order last week banning motorbike riders from using the main road in Juba which runs from the South Sudan national legislative assembly, passing the presidential palace before ending at the Central Equatoria state legislative assembly.
The police claim the motorbikes cause traffic jams, preventing senior government officials from moving quickly between important meetings. South Sudan has been in a crisis since a split in the army and ruling party plunged the young nation into conflict in December last year.
The surprise decision caught drivers unaware on 1 April, generating a fierce public backlash, with some describing it as an “unwise and repressive act”. However, South Sudan’s authorities have given no indication that they are prepared to to reverse the decision.
“Where on earth has [there been] a public road built with public resources [so that it] can be restricted to individuals?” said one commentator, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Even in America and Britain there are no roads dedicated to government officials. I am not aware of any road in Washington which has been restricted to president [Barack] Obama nor did I hear similar restrictions on the public road in the United Kingdom for the Queen and the prime minister. Not even in Uganda or Sudan. Maybe they will copy it from us,” the commentator continued in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday, saying the situation was laughable.
“Some of the things we do here are [so] funny that they attract laughing when explained to the nationals of other countries, because they do not make sense at all,” he said.