A south Sudan minister reprimanded a U.N. radio station for broadcasting an interview with a rebel general and said he had the power to close it down.
Such a move would spark fears for press freedom in the region.
Southern information minister Paul Mayom said he had asked the United Nations to investigate why its Miraya FM station aired the interview with George Athor, a renegade army commander who rebelled after losing in elections last month.
Media activists say some journalists have faced harassment during Sudan's April general election and the build-up a referendum due in January 2011 over whether south Sudan should split away from the north as an independent country.
"A dissident officer on principle shouldn't be allowed to talk over the radio," Mayom told Reuters.
Mayom said Miraya had gone beyond its mandate by running the piece and risked spreading panic by broadcasting Athor's threats to launch attacks in the region.
"Miraya FM is here for peace and stability and dissemination of the CPA (the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan's north-south civil war). If this mandate is not being met I can stop it. Don't tell me about independence," he said.
The United Nations said the minister had brought up his concerns in a meeting with senior officers.
But it defended the interview and the broader coverage of Miraya, set up after the peace deal in partnership with a Swiss aid group to promote democracy in the region.
"Those concerns are being addressed right now. Radio Miraya has been committed to the CPA. It is neutral and professional ... Its coverage during the elections was very strong," said U.N. spokesman Kouider Zerrouk.
Security officers forced their way into two other south Sudanese radio stations and detained staff in early March after one of them broadcast an interview with a campaigner for an independent candidate.
The editor of the south's The Citizen newspaper, Nhial Bol, said journalists were facing growing intimidation. "The government is not tolerant. This is a culture of intolerance. What did Miraya do? ... What is the point of this harassment?"
ReutersLast Mod: 19 Mayıs 2010, 23:25