June 2, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has banned al-Midan newspaper that is the mouthpiece of the Sudanese Communist Party’s (SCP) in the latest sign of continued crackdown by authorities on the press.
- A newspaper vendor in Sudan’s capital Khartoum (AFP)
Madiha Abdulla, the editor in chief of al-Midan, said in press statements that NISS informed them of the decision prior to printing its latest edition adding that the printing house told them that authorities ordered them not to print the newspaper anymore.
She also noted that Al-Midan’s distributing company Gamary, refused to distribute the newspaper last week under pressure from NISS as well.
The newspaper is believed to have angered the government by publishing certain items in the past including a column by the chief editor herself containing scathing criticism of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
Al-Midan also quoted eyewitnesses in North Kordofan town of Um Rawaba as saying that Popular Defense Forces (PDF) have armed 1,500 civilians to protect Abu-Kershola besides reporting that rebels have downed a helicopter belonging to the Iranian air force.
Abu-Kershola which is located in north east of South Kordofan state and on the border with North Kordofan, had been seized by the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) fighters in late April, but SAF was able to recapture the town this week.
On Friday SRF rebels said that they downed a military helicopter near Abu Kershola where a Sudanese army top commander was on a visit to inspect the recently reclaimed area, but the army denied the rebel claims.
Sources told Sudan Tribune that Sudanese army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ismat Abdel-Rahman narrowly escaped death when he visited the area’s frontlines. The shelling started on his convoy from rebels in mountains nearby prompting Sudanese troops to use tanks and helicopters to secure and evacuate the senior army official safely.
In the process a helicopter was shot down, the sources add.
Last May, Nafie Ali Nafie, Vice-Chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and presidential assistant, fiercely criticized al-Midan and accused it of speaking on behalf of Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) top military commander Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu.
Last month, Sudan’s 1st Vice president, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, announced lifting direct pre-publication censorship on newspapers, but editors-in-chief continue to refrain from publishing pieces criticizing the government or the army for fear of confiscation that incurs heavy financial losses.
Media organizations in Sudan say that security imposes strict controls, routinely ordering them not to report on certain subjects. Otherwise NISS agents proceed with seizing copies of the newspaper and suspending its work.
Late last month, authorities suspended the pro-government Al-Intibaha and Al-Migher Al-Siyasi daily newspapers saying that they addressed sensitive military issues without referring to official sources.
Madiha told Agence France Presse (AFP) that they stopped issuing Al-Midan’s paper version a year earlier as a result of continued confiscation by the security authorities and added that they were allowed to print following the VP Taha’s decision, considering the last move as a “setback”.
“We consider the banning decision a violation of our constitutional and legal rights and we will take a legal action against it” she said.
Last year Sudan shut down three newspapers including the independent al-Tayar newspaper and two Islamist newspapers - Alwan and al-Rai al-Shaab.
In 2010 Sudan suspended the broadcasts of the BBC Arabic on FM radio and also revoked license of Monte Carlo, the Arabic service of Radio France Internationale (RFI) which also used FM airwaves in Sudan.
Last April, Sudanese authorities forced the Editor-in-chief of Al-Sahafa daily newspaper Al-Nur Ahmed Al-Nur to resign without providing any reasons. They warned that if he does not comply they will shut down the entire newspaper.
Ranked 170 out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Sudan is accordingly classified among the world’s 10 worst countries in regards to respect for freedom of information.