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Press body urges Sudan to stop use of criminal law Vs journalists

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May 21, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — The National Press and Publications Council has called on the Sudanese government to stop the use of Clause 130 of the criminal procedures law in cases relating to the press.

The council further called for the issue to be looked into urgently taking into account the fact that the clause lacks jurisdiction over the press.

The misuse of Article 130, which punishes any breach of the confidentiality of investigations, is one of the authorities’ favourite weapons. Since the start of 2007, al-Sudani has fallen victim to this ambiguous piece of legislation which is supposed to prevent “influence being brought to bear on an on-going investigation”.

The council’s secretary-general, Hashim al-Jaz, told Al-Ra’y al-Aam that the council’s leaders headed by Ali Shamou had met Vice-President Ali Osman Taha yesterday and had stressed the importance of making a decision regarding Clause 130 and for it not to be applied against the press and in issues of publication.

Al-Jaz said he was optimistic that the government would respond to the demands raised. "We do not want clause 130 to be used to suspend papers," he added.

On the other hand, the Media and Communication Council of ruling National Congress Party has said today it was determined to ensure freedom of press.

The acting chairman of the council, Mohamed Hamoud said there were plans carried out by the council and the Parliament to make changes in the Media Law. He said the council directed its sub-committee on media to lay down laws that will be adopted in the changes that will be made to the Media Law.

The justice ministry on 1st February banned al-Sudani “indefinitely” for referring to the 2006 murder of the editor of the daily al-Wifaq, Mohammed Taha, in defiance of a government imposed blackout on the case on the pretext of “preserving public order”.

Protests from professional organisations – and from the National Press Council, close to the government, which questioned the legality of the decision – resulted in a climb-down by the authorities 48 hours later.

(ST)

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