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South Sudanese Authorities Close Prominent Newspaper

FILE - A South Sudan resident reads a copy of the Nation Mirror, April 27, 2016.
FILE - A South Sudan resident reads a copy of the Nation Mirror, April 27, 2016.

South Sudan's authorities have shut down a prominent newspaper, the Nation Mirror, the editor said Wednesday, after it published details of a report released by a U.S.-based group alleging misuse of state funds by the nation's leaders.

The authorities did not give a reason for closing the paper, which prints about 2,500 copies daily and has a website, editor Aurelions Simon Cholee told Reuters. But he said it might be linked to the publication of the U.S. Sentry report on corruption.

The move will add to rights groups' concerns about media freedoms in South Sudan. The authorities have detained journalists and temporarily closed media outlets as the five-year-old African nation has been convulsed by civil conflict.

There was no immediate government comment, and it was not immediately clear how long the closure would last.

Cholee said security officials summoned the editorial leadership and ordered the paper closed, saying it "indulges in activities that are incompatible with its status."

"This is what we could not understand — what status do they mean, or what activities," Cholee said. "We don't really know whether it is in connection with the Sentry report or our previous issue [with the authorities]."

The paper was temporarily closed in 2015 when it published an article related to the withdrawal of government forces from a region in the north of the country during a civil war that erupted at the end of 2013.

Peace deal, then fighting

A peace deal was signed between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, in August 2015. But the pact faced months of wrangling before fighting between the two sides erupted again in July this year in Juba. Machar has since left the country.

The newspaper's main headline Tuesday's read "Kiir, Machar, Top Generals, Implicated in Sentry Corruption Report."

The Sentry report accused leaders on both sides of the civil war and their families of profiting from the conflict, amassing fortunes through links with bankers, arms dealers and oil companies. Spokesmen for Kiir and Machar denied the charges.

Another prominent newspaper, the Juba Monitor, has also been closed several times by the authorities. Its editor in chief, Alfred Taban, was also detained in July, which activists said related to a column he wrote about the fighting that month.

"We urge President Salva Kiir to take all necessary steps to protect journalists in South Sudan and to ensure that their right to freedom of expression is not violated," Angela Quintal of the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement in July.

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