South Sudan suspended a Catholic radio station after it investigated the suspicious death of a prisoner, reporters and human rights activists said on Wednesday, the latest crackdown on media in the young republic.
Journalists in South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, often complain of harassment and arbitrary detention by the security forces, a loose conglomeration of former militias from decades of civil war with Khartoum.
The government of the central Lakes state ordered the Good News Radio station on Friday to stop broadcasting for three days for “criticizing the government”, said Fernando Colombo, the administrator of the Catholic diocese that owns the station.
He did not elaborate but reporters and human rights activists said the station had annoyed the government by questioning the official line on the death of a civilian in jail, among other critical reports.
“The Lakes state government is intimidating the media, harassing media personnel and trying to malign those who are speaking against the abuses of human rights,” said Biel Boutrous Biel, head of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy.
The regional government, which is headed by an interim military governor, could not be reached. Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the army of having detained 130 civilians without charge in Lakes state since February.
Good News Radio went back on air on Monday evening but was playing only music. Former acting director Peter Mapuor Makur said reporters were afraid to return to work.
South Sudan, a staunch U.S. ally, is a country without media law where the government is made up mostly of former guerilla commanders who dislike scrutiny.
This year, South Sudan slipped 13 places to 124 out of 179 countries on a press freedom index compiled by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.