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S. Sudanese authorities deny ordering newspaper closure

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September 17, 2016 (JUBA) - A senior official at South Sudan’s information ministry says it has no knowledge about the recent closure of an independent English daily newspaper.

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South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, speaks to reporters in Jonglei state capital Bor on 25 December 2014 (ST)

South Sudan’s director general of information, Paul Jacob Kumbo, said he was unaware of the decision behind closure of the Nation Mirror newspaper.

"I cannot say anything about this because I am not unaware of the reasons for which the paper you are talking about was closed. So I cannot also comment on when it will resume. It is the responsibility of the national security and they are the ones to decide," he said.

He was reacting days after the Juba-based newspaper was closed by authorities.

The decision by operatives drew a significant attention of the media advocacy group and the international organizations advocating for upholding of freedom of expression as well as right to gathering and disseminating information in the interest of the public.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a statement issued on Thursday, called on South Sudan authorities to immediately re-open the paper. The statement was in reaction to reports that security services ordered the independent daily to close.

"The newspaper’s editor, Aurelions Simon Cholee says security officials summoned editors and accused them of "engaging in activities that are incompatible with the newspaper’s registration status," but did not offer further explanation.

Cholee said that authorities ordered the Nation Mirror closed and did not specify when it would be able to resume publication. The paper’s website was last updated on 13 September.

In its most recent edition, the Nation Mirror covered a report by The Sentry, a Washington advocacy group, which alleged that President Salva Kiir and his rival, the former vice president Riek Machar, had amassed enormous wealth and invested it in multimillion dollar properties abroad, while a conflict triggered by a dispute between the pair has left many citizens in South Sudan living in poverty.

"President Salva Kiir’s government should immediately allow the Nation Mirror to resume publication," said Murithi Mutiga, CPJ’s East Africa representative.

"South Sudan needs more, not fewer, independent and critical voices. Preventing professional journalists from doing their work will not advance efforts to build a democratic and stable South Sudan," he added.

The Nation Mirror was closed before. In February 2015, CPJ documented how National Security Service agents seized a print run and issued a publishing ban after the paper was accused of printing anti-government reports.

The media environment in South Sudan has deteriorated in recent months. CPJ reported in July that the major daily, Juba Monitor, was ordered closed and its editor, Alfred Taban, was arrested after he wrote a column critical of both Kiir and Machar.

(ST)

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