Juba — The South Sudanese government has ordered service provider, the Zain Telecommunications Group, to bar access to the websites of Radio Tamazuj, Sudan Tribune, and the popular South Sudanese blogs Nyamilepedia and Paanluel Wel.
"The South Sudan government through the Communications Regulatory, National Communication Authority (NCA) ordered for the blockage of access to Radio Tamazuj, Sudan Tribune, and some other websites for reasons best known to them," the Zain Group said in a confirmation message to Radio Tamazuj on 20 July.
Information Minister Michael Makuei confirmed the blockade went into effect on Monday 18 July. "If they have been disseminating hostile messages towards us then we have the authority to close them," he was quoted as saying.
The country's National Security Services, officials at the Presidential Palace and the Ministries in Juba remain unaffected and have uncensored access to all four media outlets, Radio Tamazuj reported on 19 July.
An engineer, who preferred anonymity, told Radio Tamazuj that the decision came after a meeting held by South Sudan authorities over the past three weeks to block news websites they perceive posing a threat to the current government in Juba.
Alfred Taban, head of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan, condemned the decision. "People should have access to information, so what happened is wrong," he said.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), journalists working in the country fear losing their liberty or their lives if they publish critical content. "Censoring news and intimidating journalists is becoming increasingly common in South Sudan," the Deputy Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stated.
The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El Ghassim Wane, commented on the news in his briefing on the country at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
The South Sudan government decision to block news media websites seems to contradict official commitments to create an environment conducive to conducting the national dialogue launched by President Salva Kiir, he said.
The world's youngest nation is ranked 145th of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Radio Tamazuj broadcasts on short-wave radio are unaffected and will continue uncensored.