South Sudan: Govt Suspends 'Al Watan' Newspaper

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South Sudan has suspended Al Watan Arabic newspaper accusing it of non-compliance and operating without a licence.

In a statement to newsrooms on Wednesday the regulator South Sudan Media Authority (SSMA) said the newspaper, published daily, failed to meet terms of its licence.

"This is to inform the public and media houses that the media authority has suspended the operation of Al Watan Arabic newspaper with effect from March 27, 2019, for gross non-compliance with the licence terms and conditions in accordance with section 45 (1) of the media authority Act, 2013, read together with Rule 4 of the media authority regulations on print media, 2018," the statement reads.

SSMA further said the paper's licence expired last April and that Al Watan has ignored several reminders by the authority to renew the permit.

The Arabic paper has been in the crosshairs of the regulator after it was barred from covering unrest in neighbouring Sudan in January this year following complaints by the Sudanese embassy in Juba that its articles were supportive of the protests.

Journalists in South Sudan say the suspension is aimed at stifling free speech.

"This is a clear violation of press freedom by the government of the republic of South Sudan," a Juba-based journalist who prefer anonymity for safety reasons told The EastAfrican.

Media in South Sudan are frequently targeted for their reporting, with the country regularly at the bottom of international press freedom rankings.

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