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South Sudan Shutters 2 Newspapers in Apparent Crackdown

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, center, accompanied by army chief of staff Paul Malong Awan, right, attends an independence day ceremony in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, July 9, 2015. South Sudan marked four years of independence from Sudan on Thursday, but the celebrations were tempered by concerns about ongoing violence and the threat of famine. (AP Photo/Jason Patinkin)
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, center, accompanied by army chief of staff Paul Malong Awan, right, attends an independence day ceremony in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Jason Patinkin)

JASON PATINKIN, Associated Press

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The South Sudanese government has stopped operations of two newspapers, editors at the publications said Wednesday, in an apparent crackdown on the independent media.

Agents from the National Security Services on Monday ordered the Citizen newspaper to stop printing because of recent articles urging President Salva Kiir to sign a peace deal with rebels, said newspaper editor Nhial Bol.

The Arabic language Al Rai was closed down on Saturday after the government accused one of its employees of traveling to Kenya to join the rebels, said editor Wazir Michael.

Free-Voice, a group that is known for producing a radio drama aimed at promoting peace, said its premises were also shut down on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny did not answer repeated phone calls from The Associated Press on the closings.

Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists said the space for critical journalism has been shrinking in South Sudan since the outbreak of an armed rebellion.

“The crackdown presents an ongoing trend where security forces work in near total autonomy and in disregard to the law,” he said.

Six journalists have been killed this year in South Sudan.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been at war since December 2013 as government forces battle rebels loyal to a former deputy president.

Peace talks between the warring factions are expected to resume later this week in Ethiopia, with the international community urging them to reach a peace deal by Aug. 17. Previous attempts to reach an agreement have not succeeded, despite international pressure.

On Wednesday Lam Akol, a prominent opposition figure in South Sudan, said he had been prevented from leaving the county to attend the Ethiopia talks.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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