The South Sudan government has shut down the country’s main English-language daily, which headlined news on a war profiteering report commissioned by actor George Clooney, the paper’s editor told AFP on Wednesday.
Nation Mirror editor Simon Aurelious said officials from the National Security Service gave no clear reason for the closure, simply saying “the paper is indulging in activities incompatible with its status.”
“We were called today to the office of the National Security and after reaching there they showed us an order. The order is instructing us to close down,” Aurelious said.
The paper’s headlines Wednesday and Tuesday focused on a report released in Washington this week about the alleged implication of President Salva Kiir, rebel chief Riek Machar and the country’s army chiefs in corruption during the nation’s three-year civil war.
The report by watchdog group The Sentry said leaders of the world’s newest country had profited from a conflict that has driven a quarter of a million people from their homes and left tens of thousands dead.
One of the Nation Mirror headlines read “Kiir, Machar and top Generals implicated in Sentry Report” while another said “Machar’s source of weapons uncovered.”
The government has denied the report as “completely rubbish”.
Not the first time
Aurelious said security authorities two weeks ago summoned him and demanded the paper’s management produce the author of a critical piece on the government.
But the Nation Mirror refused to give the writer’s name.
“They told us that if this is the case we are going to notify you” to close down, he said.
In February last year the paper was shut down by government security agents for nine months after publishing details on the activities of rebels affiliated to Machar.
Alfred Taban, a veteran South Sudanese journalist who is chairman of the country’s Association for Media Development, AMDISS, said the latest decision “is shocking news.”
“We are yet to check with the Media Authority as to why they [National Security] are doing this,” Taban said.
Taban spent 13 days in detention in July after writing an editorial sharply critical of Kiir and Machar.
The paper’s closure comes days after the United Nations expressed concern over alleged threats by government officials against civil society activists in contact with a UN Security Council group that visited South Sudan to look at the possible deployment of a regional protection force.
The government rejected the idea.