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JUBA - 1 Apr 2020

Security shuts down Agamlong newspaper

South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) on Monday shut down an English daily newspaper, the Agamlong, the editor said on Wednesday.

The authorities did not give a reason for closing the newspaper, managing editor Simon Machuar told Radio Tamazuj.

Machuar said security officers at the printing press in Juba had been dictating what should be printed or not.

“Before the closure, they used to remove some articles from the newspaper. Two days ago, managers of the Universal Printing Press informed me that security officials closed the newspaper,” he said.

Machuar further said the editorial leadership had lodged a formal complaint with the Media Authority and the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) after the newspaper’s closure.

It remains unclear how long the closure would last.

Deputy information minister Baba Medan Konyi said they are not aware that the National Security Service has shut down the Agamlong newspaper.

“The ministry has not received any complaint about the issue. Let the newspaper’s leadership meet the relevant bodies so that the issue can be resolved,” said Medan.

The president’s spokesman, Ateny wek Ateny, said he had no information that the Agamlong newspaper had been closed. “The National Security Service is part of the president’s office, but I haven’t been informed about the reasons for the newspaper’s closure,” Ateny explained.

Edmund Yakani, executive director of the non-profit Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), denounced the climate of fear instilled in media outlets as the country ramps up precautions against the deadly novel coronavirus.

“Restriction of media outlets at the moment has implications on public awareness, especially matters of mitigating the risk of COVID-19. CEPO is urging the authorities that if there is any mistake made by the newspaper, then it has to be tackled legally,” said Yakani.

The renowned civil society activist called on the transitional government to respect press freedoms and freedom of expression in order to regain public trust and confidence.

The newspaper’s closure will add to concerns by rights groups about media freedoms in South Sudan. The country has been regularly at the bottom of international press freedom rankings.

The peace deal signed in September 2018 provides for the review of security sector laws including the National Security Service Act by the National Constitutional Amendment Committee.