October 2, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has terminated a ban on the publication of the northern separatist daily, Al-Intibaha, which was suspended nearly three months ago as the government moved to quell media outlets advocating the secession of south Sudan region in a vote slated for January 2011.
Official media agencies reported on Saturday that the director-general of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta, issued a decision lifting the ban on Al-Intibaha.
According to the official SUNA, the NISS’s decision was made at the behest of president Al-Bashir on the condition that the paper would adhere to the pledges it made before the state’s leadership to observe the code of journalistic honor and respect the constitution.
Al-Intibaha, which in Arabic translates to The Alert, was founded in mid-2007 by the former director of Sudan National TV, Al-Tayeb Mustafa, who is an uncle to President Omer Al-Bashir.
The paper is the mouthpiece of the Just Peace Forum, a political party founded by Mustafa to advocate the secession of south Sudan on the pretext that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) gave too many concessions to southerners at the expense of northerners.
The CPA is the name of the peace deal which in 2005 ended decades of civil war between the Arab, Muslim-ruled north and the African south. Under the deal, the south will vote in January 2011 on whether to retain unity with the north or secede to form its own independent state.
All prognoses indicate that southerners will vote overwhelmingly for secession.
Al-Initbaha’s editorial policy aims to highlight negative reports from the south and portray southern Sudanese in bad lights. The paper, whose motto is “the voice of the silent majority”, claims to guard the Arab and Islamic identity of north Sudan against what it sees as a threat posed by the Christian and black south.
The paper’s occasional editorial, entitled Nidaa Al-Yaguiza, A Call for Vigilance, calls for Jihad against southerners to protect the north’s Islamic identity.
Al-Intibaha has frequently attacked countries such as Libya, Egypt and Uganda, accusing them of conspiring against Sudan.
On July 06, the NISS surprised observers when it shut down Al-Intibaha and accused it of encouraging secessionist tendencies in the North and South of the country.
The head of the NISS information department said that the decision to suspend Al-Intibaha was meant to “diminish its negative role in encouraging separatist tendencies in the South and North contrary to the constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which calls for supporting to the unity option.”
Al-Tayeb Mustafa has welcomed the decision and was quoted by Sudan’s official news agency, SUNA, as announcing that the paper would resume publication as of Wednesday, October 06.
He said that the paper would support a stable and prospering Sudan in which identity is protected.
Mustafa had one of his sons killed during the North-South civil war in the 90’s as a recruit in the government militias. Many of Mustafa’s critics claim that the death of his child in this war has made him a staunch supporter of South Sudan’s secession and a fierce critic of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) which rules the South. Many commentators and observers accused Mustafa of inciting hatred and racism through his writings.
Mustafa’s daily column often contains derogatory remarks against SPLM’s leaders, specifically the SPLM’s secretary-general Pagan Amum and deputy secretary-general Yasir Arman.
Al-Intibaha is one of the most widely circulated papers in Sudan. At one point in 2009, it peaked as the second most-selling newspaper in Sudan after the pro-government Akhir Lahzah.