Home | Press Releases    Saturday 4 May 2013

Sudan: Stepped-Up Assault on Media Freedom


Human Rights Watch

Sudan: Stepped-Up Assault on Media Freedom

Newspapers, Other Media Censored, Confiscated, Shut Down

MAY 3, 2013

(Nairobi) – Sudan should immediately stop censoring newspapers and end all forms of repression of media and journalists, on World Press Freedom Day.

In recent weeks, authorities have stepped up censorship of print media. Authorities at the National Telecommunications Corporation also block access to the websites of the opposition online newspaper Hurriyat and the popular forum Sudanese Online.

“Sudan muffles critical speech through a long menu of direct and indirect tactics, violating the basic freedoms enshrined in the constitution,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudan should stop trying to silence anyone who says anything the government doesn’t like.”

Although Sudan’s 15 daily political newspapers have a greater semblance of freedom than the state-controlled broadcast media, the newspapers are subject to various methods of censorship and punitive measures for publishing articles on sensitive issues. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is largely responsible for these tactics.

On April 3, 2013, NISS re-imposed direct pre-printing censorship on at least four independent dailies: al-Ayyam, al-Sahafa, al-Khartoum, and al-Youm al-Tali. The first two are being censored directly, required to clear the content of each edition with NISS officials in advance. The other two were later exempted from this process, but are still getting phone calls from security officials directing their coverage.

For example, after a police mutiny in West Darfur on April 21, an NISS official called al-Khartoum newspaper, one of the paper’s editors told Human Rights Watch: “They told us not to mention a single word outside the official statement of the Ministry of Interior on the events.”

On March 24, NISS confiscated al-Khartoum’s print run because the newspaper published a report about a protest planned by the families of six political detainees. Most of the detainees have been held for almost four months without any judicial review because they held talks in January with rebel groups in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

When the paper’s editors asked the NISS official who had the issue confiscated for an explanation, he said the paper “has already crossed the red lines too many times,” the editor told Human Rights Watch.

In September 2009, President Omar Al-Bashir announced the end of more than a year of pre-publication censorship for all newspapers, a system under which NISS officials visited the newspaper offices every night to screen draft copies and expunge any objectionable content on a long list of sensitive issues.

The banned topics included the armed conflicts in the country’s peripheries and the indictment of Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC). In announcing the decision to lift censorship, al-Bashir warned journalists not to cross the “red lines” and required chief editors of newspapers to sign a document obliging them to exercise “self-censorship.”

However, NISS officials continued to use various tactics to exercise censorship, ranging from making phone calls to issuing orders about coverage to confiscating entire editions or shutting down newspapers without court orders. On January 2, 2012, the NISS closed down the anti-government Ray Al-Sha’b and 10 days later the privately owned al-Wan, both without explanation. Al-Wan was allowed to resume publishing on March 15, 2012 while Ray Al-Sha’b remains closed.

On June 11, the NISS director-general, Mohammed Atta, suspended publication of the privately owned newspaper al-Tayyar, which remains closed. NISS suspended another privately owned daily, al-Jareeda, on September 27, but allowed it to resume publishing on December 15.

In August 2011, following South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, the NISS closed down six newspapers, including the anti-government Ajrass al-Hurriya, on the pretext that their shareholders include citizens from South Sudan. And in mid-2012, the government again stepped up harassment of journalists and censorship in the aftermath of fighting between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces at Heglig oil fields. In late 2011 and early 2012, NISS effectively blacklisted 15 journalists.

While many of the journalists were later allowed to resume work, Rasha Awad, a columnist, has not been permitted to write since NISS shut down Ajrass al-Hurriya, where she had worked. Haidar al-Mukashfi, a prominent columnist at al-Sahafa, was suspended for nearly a year, beginning on April 24, 2012, when he was summoned to the NISS media office in Khartoum, interrogated for four hours and ordered not to write again until he received further notice. He was only allowed to resume writing on April 12, 2013, after his editor-in-chief obtained permission from NISS.

More recently, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper al-Sahafa, al-Nur Ahmad al-Nur, said that NISS ordered him on April 3 to resign from his position because of articles the paper had run, or the NISS would ensure that the paper was closed down for good.

Sudan’s National Security Act of 2010 gives the NISS sweeping powers of arrest, search and seizure as well as immunity from prosecution for its agents. Sudan’s interim constitution of 2005 guarantees freedom of the press, however, and does not give the security apparatus any powers of arrest or authority over the press.

Sudan is a party to both the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and as such has undertaken legally binding obligations to respect free speech. The actions of the NISS against journalists and media outlets clearly violate these obligations, and the rights of Sudanese citizens, Human Rights Watch said.

“The security agency officials’ intimidation and threats of the news media are clearly designed to ensure that the Sudanese people are kept in the dark about sensitive topics that are of huge public interest” Bekele said. “The security’s agency’s censorship also underscores the need for urgent reform of national security laws in line with international standards.”

Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 11 May 2013 09:44, by Kedo

    Don’t waste your time talking politics. See how a Sudanese poor woman became a millionaire just by buying and selling accidented cars, Very interesting idea. Go to (ACCIDENTEDCARS.COM) to see the various methods and companies she was using (ACCIDENTEDCARS.COM). A simple idea but who knew it before. WAKE UP . Don’t waste your time talking politics. Life is too short. (ACCIDENTEDCARS.COM)

    repondre message

Comment on this article

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

South Sudan’s universities should explore other revenues 2019-03-17 20:33:06 By Ukongo Benson Athia Of recent, it transpired that the five public universities dons have advanced their cause to increase the tuition fees for the students. I have seen such complaints of (...)

Pressure from the people in Sudan 2019-03-17 10:55:35 The longer genuine political and economic reform is delayed in Sudan, the greater the risk of wider instability and deepening economic crisis. By Rosalind Marsden President Omar al-Bashir, who (...)

Sudan’s al-Bashir burnt the boats before crossing 2019-03-11 06:19:03 By Mahmoud a. Suleiman Second Military Coup D’état of Omer Bashir will Not Protect him from his inevitable fate at the hands of the uprising Sudanese people The angry uprising men, women and (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan Protests: Investigate the custodial death of three University students 2019-03-13 12:53:14 The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) Sudan Protests: Urgent call for investigations into the custodial death of three University students and alleged torture of detainees by (...)

The Alliance for Restoration of Sudanese Workers Trade Unions Joins the Declaration of Freedom and Change 2019-03-10 21:16:50 PRESS RELEASE For immediate release 10 th March 2019 The Alliance for Restoration of Sudanese Workers Trade Unions announced on Sunday 10th March that it was joining the revolutionary forces (...)

Ethnic Murle politicians say enough to cattle raiding 2018-12-28 09:32:00 December 27, 2018 (JUBA) - Murle political leaders in Buma state have vowed to end the practice of cattle raiding and child abduction by individuals in the community. Jodi Jonglei, who is also (...)


Copyright © 2003-2019 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.