S.Sudan to lift ban on foreign journalists: Media Official

AFP , Thursday 22 Jun 2017

South Sudan's media authority will lift a ban on around 20 foreign journalists who had been refused access to the country, a top media official said Thursday.

Earlier this month the government's media regulatory authority said it had banned the journalists over "unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories".

The National Dialogue Steering Committee -- tasked with leading consultations to restore peace in the country -- put pressure on the Media Authority to lift the ban.

"They are going to allow any journalists to come. They were preventing some journalists because they said some journalists are fond of criticism of what is happening in the country," said Alfred Taban, the committee's chief of media affairs.

"They were in other words skeptics. I said whether skeptic or not, they must be allowed to come to the country. So now if the BBC wants to come there is no question of somebody being denied a visa."

Media Authority chief Elijah Alier Kuai said permits would be granted to all foreign journalists and there was "no problem" with the reporters coming to South Sudan.

A report by Juba-based Eye Radio two weeks ago said those banned were deemed to have produced stories with "the potential to incite hate and violence" or that "do not have reliable sources or specific locations" or "that insult or degrade the country and its people".

Alier told the radio station: "You need to respect also the country, you can't just label the country as crazy."

Taban said Alier had since "promised that he will facilitate entry to the foreign journalists."

The civil war that began in South Sudan in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir fell out with his former deputy Riek Machar, has been characterised by ethnic massacres, attacks on civilians, widespread rape, the recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of brutality and human rights violations.

Both government and rebel forces are accused of what many commentators regard to be war crimes.

According to the Foreign Correspondents' Association of East Africa, journalists from leading news organisations -- most of whom had previously reported in South Sudan -- have been refused visas or accreditation over the past six months.

Last month Al Jazeera English staff were banned from working in South Sudan after airing a report from a rebel-held part of the country.

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