August 22, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – A Sudanese daily newspaper has said it intends to instigate legal proceedings against the country’s security apparatus over confiscation of its copies, a bold yet potentially futile move given the judiciary’s chronic failure to challenge the government’s repressive policies towards local press.
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Between 20 and 23 August, the Khartoum-based Arabic daily newspaper Al-Jaridah has had its copies confiscated by agents of country’s National Intelligence and Security Services’ (NISS) after being printed.
No reason was given for the suspension, the title said in a press release issued on 21 August.
But the paper’s editor-in-chief Saad Al-Din Ibrahim on Monday revealed that his paper was suspended because it rejected NISS’s attempts to interfere in its editorial and recruitment policy.
According to Ibrahim, the NISS asked the paper’s administration not to employ journalists who used to work for the suspended daily Ajrass Al-Hurriyah which the authorities banned following the secession of South Sudan on the pretext that its shareholders include southerners.
Ibrahim, who was addressing a press conference in Khartoum, expressed amazement that the security agents could raid printing presses and confiscate papers with impunity. The paper’s editor said that the suspension had led to severe financial loss
He went on to say that his paper plans to seek recourse to the judiciary which he urged to serve justice for all.
Two years ago, Ajrass Al-Hurriyah attempted to pull a similar lawsuit against the NISS but the move was watered down.
Earlier this month, NISS twice suspended the publication of the privately owned daily Al-Ahdath after it went to print, inflicting a financial loss amounting to 10,000 US dollars, according to the paper’s head of newsroom Mozdalifa Mohamed Osman.
It turned out later that Al-Ahdath was suspended because it published information on a planned meeting between the country’s president Omer Al-Bashir and leader of the armed opposition group Sudan People Liberation Movement-North Malik Aggar.
Although protection of press freedom is enshrined in Sudan’s constitution, the authorities routinely target independent newspapers through a variety of measures including censorship, confiscation and deprivation of state adverts.
Reporters Without Borders, a lobby group, 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"