The South Sudan Media Authority has ordered the editor-in-chief of the Arabic newspaper, Al-Watan, to pay an unprecedented fine of 750,000 SSP (USD 5,757) and warned of legal measures against him if he fails to pay within 30 days.
The Media Authority said in a letter seen by Radio Tamazuj that the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper, Michael Christopher, published press materials violating Article 9 of the Media Authority Act of 2013 on social media.
The letter read: “According to the requirements, Michael Christopher, the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan newspaper, violated the act of transparency in paragraph 8 of the rules for practicing the profession of journalism in South Sudan for the year 2021.”
The statement which bears the signature of Elijah Alier Koi, director-general of the Media Authority, said that Christopher has been fined 750,000 SSP to be paid within 30 days for publishing inflammatory materials on social media, and in the event of his failure to pay, legal and administrative measures will be taken against him.
Christopher is among the few journalists in South Sudan who use Facebook to conduct dialogues on the suffering of citizens in addition to political discussions.
Two months ago, Christopher held political dialogues, including a political discussion with opposition leader Paul Malong Awan, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Christopher told Radio Tamazuj that the Media Authority is muting the voices of journalists in South Sudan and that the financial fine is an incapacitating decision by the media authority.
He said he was summoned by the authority two weeks ago to explain some complaints against Al-Watan newspaper, an investigation about the article that was blocked, and his conversations with politicians on social media.
“In the first week I was summoned and the meeting ended without a result. In the second week when I returned to them to continue the meeting, I received a letter in which I was fined 750,000 SSP to be paid within a month or face sanctions against Al-Watan newspaper,” He explained. “This is unreasonable, if there is a problem, it must be with Michael, because all the dialogues were on Michael Christopher’s page, not Al-Watan newspaper.”
Regarding the article which was blocked and banned, Christopher said the article was talking about the diplomatic weakness in South Sudan.
“But through their conversation with me, I knew that they did not want dialogues with opposition politicians who are not signatories to peace (agreement),” he said.
Christopher said that the Media Authority is practicing the old methods of Sudan before the secession of South Sudan, by imposing restrictions and censorship on journalistic work,
“This violates the state’s integrity and the council’s procedures reduce freedom of the press and lead people to the bottom path.”