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Sudan confiscates pro-opposition paper

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September 5, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan on Sunday blocked the publication of a paper affiliated with a major opposition party, in the latest assault against freedom of press by the country’s security authorities.

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Al-Maydan, the bi-weekly mouthpiece of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), on Monday circulated a release saying that copies of its Sunday’s edition were confiscated by agents of the country’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

The paper said that no reason or justification was given for the confiscation, which occurred after the paper was printed.

Al-Maydan noted that this was the sixth time in the last four months that its copies had been confiscated, crying foul over the heavy financial losses it incurred as a result.

The paper went on to censure the National Council of Press and Publication, the official regulator of print-media, and the government-controlled Union of Sudanese journalists for their failure to respond to such violations by the security apparatus.

“As much as we condemn the recurring behavior of the NISS towards our paper and others, we also condemn the negative attitude of the press council and union of journalists towards what is happening and we consider it as part of a wider conspiracy targeting newspapers and journalists in order to further restrict journalistic work,” the paper’s release said.

Sudan’s constitution guarantees freedom of press but newspapers, especially privately owned and pro-opposition ones, are frequently subjected to a variety of measures to prevent them from reporting on issues deemed sensitive by the authorities.

Those measures include direct pre-publication censorship, confiscation, legal proceedings and denial of state adverts. Confiscation, in particular, inflicts severe financial damages on the papers which are already hard-pressed due to low circulation revenues.

Over the last couple of month, Sudan’s NISS confiscated copies of two privately owned dailies, Al-Ahdath and Al-Jaridah, after they were printed and without explanation.

In the same vein, a Sudanese lobby group has denounced the confiscation of papers as a constitutional abomination.

The Network of Sudanese Journalists said on Monday that the confiscation of Al-Maydan and Al-Jaridah violated Sudan’s interim constitution and international accords ratified by the country.

The group said that NISS’s continuing confiscation of papers was a dangerous indication of curtailing the freedom of expression and of restricting and weakening the press.

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization, in June slammed "the disgraceful way the [Sudanese] authorities are harassing and prosecuting journalists in Khartoum and the north of the country in an attempt to silence them and stop embarrassing revelations about human rights violation by the security forces"

Another press-freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said that Sudanese authorities continue to “aggressively” target individual journalists and publications through "contrived legal proceedings, politicized criminal charges, and confiscations".

Results published as part of UNESCO 2011 World Press Freedom Day, Sudan ranks as 40 out of 48 in Sub-Saharan Africa for press freedom. Amnesty International described Sudan as a place where freedom of speech is being "openly violated"

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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