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South Sudan blocks foreign journalists

June 8, 2017

At least 20 foreign journalists have been refused entry to South Sudan for producing reports deemed “insulting”, a government official confirmed Thursday.

This week, Juba-based Eye Radio reported that “about 20” foreign journalists had been banned for their “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories”.

Elijah Alier, manager of the government regulatory body, the Media Authority, confirmed to AFP that the report was “true” but refused to provide any detail on who the banned journalists are and which media they work for.

He also refused details on what criteria was used to determine who would be banned or whether further restrictions will be put in place.

Foreign journalists seeking to visit South Sudan require clearing by the Media Authority before a visa is issued.

The Eye Radio report said those banned were deemed to have produced stories with “the potential to incite hate and violence” or that “do not have reliable sources or specific locations” or “that insult or degrade the country and its people”.

“You need to respect also the country, you can’t just label the country as crazy,” Alier told Eye Radio.

The civil war that began in South Sudan in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir fell out with his former deputy Riek Machar, has been characterised by ethnic massacres, attacks on civilians, widespread rape, the recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of brutality and human rights violations.

Both government and rebel forces are accused of what many commentators regard to be war crimes and the UN has warned of a looming genocide. Some rebel-held parts of the country are suffering from famine as a result of government offensives.

Last month Al Jazeera English staff were banned from working in South Sudan after airing a report from a rebel-held part of the country.

Alfred Taban, a veteran South Sudanese journalist and rights activist, condemned the restrictions saying, “it gives the impression that South Sudan has something to cover up.”

“All people now who read articles by foreign correspondents about South Sudan will think these articles are approved by the government,” he added.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.