JUBA – South Sudan’s popular Arabic newspaper, Al Watan Daily Newspaper, has been fined by the National Media Authority with a fine of 750,000 South Sudanese Pounds for what it calls ‘incitement’ on social media and threatened to take further administrative measures against the newspaper in the event that it fail to pay the fine by August 30, 2021.
In a letter to the newspaper’s editor Michael Rial Christopher, the Media Authority say the journalist has made breaches of journalistic ethics and has used social media in an abusive way and that Mr. Rial was using the newspaper for personal political aspirations.
“Reference to the inquiry and hearing of series of complaints filed against the Editor – in – Chief of Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper, Mr. Michael Rial Christopher on August 02, 2021, the inquiry revealed multiple breaches of ethics and abuse of social media platform. First and foremost, the Editor-in-Chief of Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper intentionally circulated malicious and inciting contents on Social Media in contravention of Section 29 of the Media Authority Act 2013,” say the Media Authority’s letter to Mr. Rial.
“It was revealed in the process of inquiry that Mr. Michael Rial Christopher contravened the principle of transparency as stipulated in Section 8 of the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in South Sudan, 2021, and also highly embedded unsubstantiated denials and dishonesty in his response and defense. The indications in the overall conduct of Mr. Michael Rial Christopher gear towards turning Al Watan Daily Arabic Newspaper to be a platform for his leverage to political aspirations,” the letter further reads.
While it remains unclear as to what the journalist did to warrant such a financial liability, the media regulator warned the newspaper’s editor-in-chief against further ‘incitement’ on social media and said a fine of 750,000 South Sudanese Pound must be paid by the newspaper by August 30 failure of which will lead to further administrative actions from the media authority.
“In light of the above, the authority takes actions against Mr. Michael Rial Christopher, the Editor-in-Chief of Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper as stated here under: The Authority warns the Editor-in-Chief of Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper Mr. Michael Rial Christopher, to desist from circulating malicious and inciting contents on Social Media platform,” it said.
“The Authority imposes a fine of SSP 750,000 (Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand, South Sudanese Pounds only) to be paid within a period of 30 Days by Mr. Michael Rial Christopher, the Editor-in-Chief of Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper for circulating malicious and inciting contents on Social Media platform,” it added.
It further said that “failure to fully comply with the above mentioned decisions will lead to administrative action against Al Watan Arabic Daily Newspaper in accordance with section 57 (4) of the Media Authority Act, 2013.This decision is taken on the basis of section 57 (1) and (2) of the Media Authority Act, 2013.”
When contacted by Sudans Post, Rial said he was not aware of any wrongdoing that constitute media breach and said “I am going to write to them on the letter which they sent me to notify me of the fine.”