Home | News    Friday 15 July 2005

Sudanese army takes newspaper to court for "demeaning" article

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By MOHAMED OSMAN

KHARTOUM, Sudan, July 14, 2005 (AP) — The Sudanese army is taking the Al-Ayam newspaper to court for publishing an article seen as demeaning to the armed forces, the official Sudanese Media Center said Thursday.

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M. Mohamed Salih

Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, editor of Sudan’s oldest independent newspaper, said he has not yet received the court summoning.

It was the first application of new laws governing press freedoms, which requires any disputes to be taken to court.

The signing of a new constitution Saturday and the subsequent lifting of emergency laws brought an end to government censorship of the press. Before those changes, an official complaint against any publication would have likely resulted in an immediate suspension of the paper.

The SMC said the office of the official army spokesman complained about a July 9 article that used expressions and phrases that "belittled the dignity and tarnished the honor of the armed forces."

It said the office of crimes against the state had started looking into the complaint.

It was not immediately possible to verify the newspaper article referred to in the complaint.

SMC said notification of the case was sent in letters to the newspaper’s editor, the reporter and the Sudanese Journalists’ Union, as called for under the new law. This was another first. In several past incidents, journalists would be detained and the union would not be informed.

But Salih, speaking through his news editor, Imad Abdel Hadi, said he has not yet officially received the summoning.

"We have read it in the newspapers like other people," he said.

Observers see the developments as a positive enforcement of Sudan’s new freedom of expression and speech. The interim constitution signed last week guarantees freedom of publication and the press "without prejudice," and the National Security Organ, which used to monitor the media and enforce suspensions, said the media would no longer be under any restrictions.

Under the state of emergency, the military and its activities were not to be reported or commented on by media unless it came from the official army spokesman.

A complaint by the military or any other official body would have resulted in the newspaper being shut down or raided by security officials, who might take the print plates or confiscate all copies of the newspaper before they could be delivered to newsstands.

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