The South Sudan Media Authority (SSMA) has banned 20 foreign journalists from entering or operating in the country for what it termed “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories”.
The chairman of the regulatory agency, Elijah Alier, said that most of the affected journalists had often reported stories with the potential to incite hate and violence among the South Sudanese.
Mr Alier, who did not disclose any names, said the Media Authority had issued over 200 permits to foreign journalists and media houses to operate in the country..
He said some of the journalists had neither reliable sources nor specific geographical bases, hence the inaccurate generalisation in their reports.
The journalists, Mr Alier said, had filed stories that insult or degrade South Sudan and its people.
Their reports, Mr Alier went on, sometimes incited violence rather than encouraging the public to embrace peace. He added that some of the reports had violated the provisions of the Media Authority Act.
“Issues to do with hate speech, incitement to violence and disinformation are not acceptable in the context of our law. Some of the reporters have not even been seen in South Sudan, you need to respect the country,” Mr Alier was quoted saying by a local radio in Juba on Wednesday evening.
He said the agency had no problem with journalists reporting on facts, but unverified information which often led to panic and heightened instability.
“Reporting about the humanitarian situation is acceptable. Such reports are helping South Sudan as they inform the world and the donor community,” he said.
A South Sudanese veteran journalist, Alfred Taban, on Tuesday called for the dissolution of the Media Authority, saying it was adding to the suffering of journalists and facilitating their intimidation, arbitrary arrests and harassment.
Mr Taban, who is the founder of the Juba Monitor daily newspaper, said in his opinion piece that the Media Authority was an arm of the security agency, which had made the work of journalists and the respect for press freedom impossible.
South Sudan has become the worst country to practise journalism, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Several journalists have lost their lives in line of duty in the young nation.