At South Sudan’s independence, there were over 10 newspapers circulating in the country, including The Citizen, The Juba Post, Sudan Mirror, The Southern Eye, The Star, The New Times, The Hero and the New Nation, but all of them have since been shut down either due to pressure from the government or financial constraints. In 2017, there were five daily newspapers in circulation in the capital, Juba, read by a majority of English-speaking residents of the city. Today, the print media market is dominated by Juba Monitor which is partially supported by the USAID’s Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) program. Founded in 2011, Juba Monitor remains a popular newspaper read by mostly educated and professional elites. The newspaper which was formerly known as the Khartoum Monitor, was founded by the late veteran South Sudanese journalist Alfred Taban, who in 2016 joined the legislative assembly of South Sudan as a nominated member of parliament by the opposition. The way media welcomed foreign aid has not been met lightly by the government. During the 2018 symposium, the Minister for Information and government spokesperson, Michael Lueth Makuei, dismissed all media receiving support from international agencies and donors as mouthpieces for western democracies advocating for regime change in South Sudan. The other English-language daily newspaper, The Dawn, is largely perceived as a pro-government newspaper. Arabic-language newspapers in circulation within Juba included Al-Watan and Al-Mogif. Other newspapers in Arabic, Al-Maseer and Al-Istiqlal, publish in Juba but lack consistency.
The economic turmoil has heavily impacted mass media growth. Even though the media industry in South Sudan saw a sharp rise in the number of newspapers in circulation since independence, newspaper revenue has been on a free fall. In 2012, the editor and owner of The Citizen newspaper (which has since closed down) said the newspaper industry in South Sudan was wilting down. At the time there were about 15 daily and weekly newspapers which were set mostly in major towns around the country, but many have since been shut down due to financial difficulties caused by high operational costs amid reduced advertising revenues.
Circulation of newspapers is currently limited to Juba city. A 2015 survey (We’re Still Listening: A Survey of the Media Landscape in the Accessible Areas of South Sudan in 2015), commissioned by Internews, indicated a rise in newspapers reach with a weekly reach of 44 percent in Juba and parts of the former Central Equatorial state. However, 14 percent of the people interviewed in the survey said they did not regard newspapers as trusted source of reliable information. In 2015, three English-language newspapers dominated the daily circulation in Juba with weekly reach of The Citizen (23 percent), The Juba Monitor (22 percent) and The Juba Telegraph (9 percent).
Literacy levels, which remain remarkably low, have impacted newspaper readership. The 2013 and 2015 Internews surveys in accessible areas of South Sudan (including the Central Equatorial, Western Equatorial, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warap states) indicated that among youths of the 15-24 age group, literacy levels were much higher, at 43 percent among male and 57 percent among female. Among the population with low literacy level, the survey indicated that 26 percent of those with no basic education trusted information relayed by word-of-mouth from family members and relatives, opinion leaders such as religious leaders and community elders.