Southern Sudan security service seized the last issue of The Juba Post newspaper preventing its distribution in the capital of the South because it includes threats by a rebel spokesperson to attack Juba.
Printed in Khartoum due to a lack of printing facilities in the semi autonomous region, some 2500 copies of the independent newspaper are transported by airplane twice per week to Juba where they are distributed. The Juba Post has a circulation of 5000 copies.
In its latest issue, the newspaper published statements by the spokesperson of the rebel South Sudan Democratic Movement (SSDM) headed by the General George Athor. Dok James Pouk said they would launch heavy attack in Juba before the independence of the South Sudan in July.
On Wednesday security agents at Juba airport confiscated 2500 copies of the biweekly newspaper and briefly detained the distribution officer, the New York-based press freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Saturday.
The Editor in Chief Michael Koma said he was summoned by the security service but he declined to appear. He also disclosed he lodged a complaint with the minister of information Barnaba Marial Benjamin who will meet him on Monday.
It is believed that the newspaper was confiscated for a headline of the story related to the rebel spokesperson "Athor plans to attack Juba". The SSDM spokesperson says their group gathers all the rebel groups recently formed in the region and they plan to storm Juba.
Minister Barnaba reacted to the seizure saying he does not approve a ban of a newspaper because of its content.
"Hostile articles should be allowed to run, that is freedom of expression which we support," the minister said in statements to Reuters on Saturday. He further said he was looking for more details about the Post’s allegations.
Southern Sudanese journalists who enjoy more freedom than their colleagues in the north, suffer however from the lack of legal framework organizing their profession and protecting them from harassment by security agents.
The editor of the Juba-based The Citizen was detained in the past for converging an alleged corruption scandal within the finance ministry. Last February Nhial Bol said agents of security service raided the office of the daily newspaper.
The Juba Post Editor in Chief and journalist Deng Atem Kuol were detained for nine hours last February for a news article alleging the Ivory Bank was facing financial difficulties.
Southerners overwhelmingly voted last January in favor of the independence of South Sudan. The event will be proclaimed formally on 9 July six years after the signing of a peace agreement in 2005 ending civil war between north and south Sudan.
During the interim period, the southern Sudan legislative assembly failed to adopt three bills related to the press: the Right to Information bill, the South Sudan Public Service Broadcasting bill, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority bill.