March 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The speaker of Sudan’s National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Tahir, has accused journalists who contact rebel leaders of committing “high-treason,” stressing the need to bar publishing of rebels’ viewpoints in local newspapers.
Sudanese newspapers are already under strict orders by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to avoid publishing statements by, or interviews with, leaders of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) and other rebel groups from the Western region of Darfur.
In January this year, the NISS closed the pro-opposition Ra’y al-Sha’b newspaper after it published an interview with one of the leaders of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement.
“We must draw a line between us and those who take up arms against us,” Al-Tahir said during a meeting of the security and defense committee of the Sudanese parliament on Monday.
Al-Tahir said that it is important to protect the morale of army soldiers who are fighting the rebels in the bush, asking what their feelings would be like when they read statements of rebel leaders in newspapers.
He added that there is no justification whatsoever for journalists to contact rebel leaders and publish their views.
Such action, according to Sudan’s top parliamentarian, amounts to “high-treason” and can be classified as an issue of espionage.
The Sudanese parliament is preparing to pass an anti-espionage law that activists and journalists fear would serve to escalate what they describe as a campaign to intimidate them.
Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir warned in an interview last week that his government would not tolerate any negative comments by journalists against the army.
The Sudanese army is fighting rebel groups on a number of fronts including the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as the western region of Darfur.