October 7, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese security forces encircled the premises of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) in Omdurman in a bid to prevent journalists from holding a peaceful gathering to protest press censorship.
Police and members of the security service surrounded the NUP headquarters on Monday with around 20 vehicles and barred dozens of journalists and foreign correspondents from entering the meeting, which organised by the independent Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) .
Despite the blockade some journalists managed to successfully enter the NUP building where they raised slogans demanding press freedom and the release of journalists being held in detention.
They also demanded the government halt what they called an unfair campaign against newspapers and journalists, calling on press advocacy groups and international human rights organisations to campaign against the harsh restrictions placed on journalists in Sudan.
Sudanese journalists work under tight daily censorship controls exercised by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
The NISS recently intensified its crackdown on press in the country, introducing tough new measures to prevent media outlets from covering recent anti-government protests which erupted following the lifting of subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities.
Several journalists were arrested amid accusations of “disturbing the public” and several daily newspapers were shut down, including Al-Intibabha and Al-Mejhar, while others such as Al-Ayam decided to stop working, saying the current conditions do not allow them to exercise their profession.
NUP leading member Sarah Nugdallah, who came to participate in the journalists’ gathering, quarrelled with security officers who attempted to prevent her from attending the meeting before entering the premises of the party.
The opposition party supported the journalists in their gathering which is in line with NUP policy which supports the holding of peaceful protests against the regime to force it to accept democratic transition in the country.
The General Union of Sudanese Journalists has called on Sudanese authorities to halt the confiscation of newspapers and harassment of those involved in the media industry.
In a statement issued on Monday, the union urged the government stop coercive and punitive measures against newspapers, stressing the country’s need for a free press that highlights “the true image of Sudan”.
It also urged press and media outlets to observe journalism ethics and standards which “save the country’s security and stability”, stressing that the union is aware of “targeting and challenges [that] the Sudan is facing”.