South Sudan's National Security Service (NSS) on Tuesday seized the print run of the Nation Mirror newspaper and ordered its staff to cease operations, editor-in-chief Wol Deng Atak said.
“They confiscated our newspaper at 5 a.m. when we’re distributing them and they asked the distributors that I must report to the National Security office in Juba," Deng said.
"I went this morning and I was told our paper had been shut down indefinitely," he said.
Deng said the NSS told him they were shutting down the paper because it had published "anti-government articles." He said they did not specify which stories were thought to carry an anti-government message.
He said he was also told that the NSS was unhappy with an erroneous headline that ran in the paper a week ago about a rebel attack on government forces in Renk, in Upper Nile state.
Deng said the title of the story read "SPLA withdraws from Renk" when it should have said that the SPLA had withdrawn from the outskirts of Renk. The paper issued an apology for the missing words the following day and apologized to the army.
Deng said the director of communications for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) "...said he was fine" with the apology. The editor in chief also insisted that the Nation Mirror has "no ill intention against the SPLA or the people of South Sudan."
"For that to be used now or cited as a reason why the paper is shut down, we find it as something ... unreasonably targeting the press,” he said.
Deng said claims that the paper is against President Salva Kiir’s government are wrong. He said the Nation Mirror is simply trying to inform the public about matters of national importance.
Deng deplored that the security forces are tightening their grip on the media, even as peace appears to be around the corner. Mr. Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar signed a power-sharing agreement at the weekend. The agreement is seen as a first step towards a peace agreement.
Last month, the NSS ordered the Juba Monitor newspaper to apologize for an article the government considered "against the system" or they would be shut down.
South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei has threatened to prosecute journalists who report the views of rebels.
In August of last year, media rights advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it knew of at least 10 cases where journalists were harassed or threatened with arrest for their reporting.
The topic that draws the harshest reaction is coverage of rebels, the CPJ said. South Sudanese journalists have said they have begun to self-censor their reporting, especially when a story includes information about rebels.