South Sudanese authorities should immediately unblock the websites of at least four media outlets, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Juba-based journalist Ngor Garang told CPJ that public web users in large portions of South Sudan have been unable to access the news sites of Paris-based Sudan Tribune and Dutch-backed Radio Tamazuj, as well as the popular blogs Nyamilepedia and Paanluel Wel. Reuters also reported the partial blocking of the websites.
Authorities blocked access to the sites on Monday for publishing content that was “subversive,” Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth told CPJ.
“Censoring news and intimidating journalists is becoming increasingly common in South Sudan,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “The government should immediately unblock all news sites and blogs.”
Lueth told CPJ that the government was justified in blocking the websites to protect citizens from outlets that “disseminate subversive material”. He added that the bans would not be lifted until “those institutions behave well”.
Michael Duku, an official with the press rights group Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS) told CPJ that the sites had likely been targeted for their critical coverage of the government. Teresa Cirisio, an official with South Sudan’s National Communication Authority Board, told CPJ that the Ministry of Information, Communication and Postal Service does have the authority to block websites, but could not confirm the cause for any blocks. She told CPJ that a ministry meeting scheduled for today to discuss the blocks did not occur.
“We see this decision [to block websites] as a new attack on the press freedom in the South Sudan,” Sudan Tribune Editor in Chief Mohamed Nagi told CPJ.
Radio Tamazuj said that its broadcasts on shortwave radio continue “unaffected” and “uncensored”.
South Sudan’s government has grown more hostile towards the media since civil war broke out in 2013. CPJ has found that journalists working in the country fear losing their liberty or their lives if they publish critical content. Last week the government detained the director of South Sudan’s public broadcaster, Adil Faris Mayat, after he failed to broadcast live a presidential speech, CPJ reported.