May 30, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s state security prosecutor has ordered a publication ban on the case of Al-Saiha daily newspaper shortly before Land Affairs prosecution police arrested the latter’s editor in chief and managing editor.
- Al-Saiha newspaper Logo (mugrn.net)
Journalists at Al-Saiha told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that a police force from the Land Affairs prosecution arrived at the newspaper’s headquarters at 10:00 am and took the editor in chief, Yasser Mahjoub, to their office, noting that he was later released on his own recognizance.
Al-Saiha’s staff said in a statement that they are committed to their newspaper despite being targeted by authorities, detailing arrest of Mahjoub and summoning of ten other editors and columnists.
The statement said that the crackdown on the newspaper began after it launched a campaign against corruption, saying they published 20 stories on corruption cases along with 53 documents in a matter of 70 days.
It further noted the campaign against Al-Saiha started following the statement issued by the presidency, saying the newspaper was immediately suspended by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) following confiscation of its issue from the printing press.
On 19 May, the Sudanese presidency delivered a firm warning to media outlets on its coverage of certain items that poses a danger to national security and the country as a whole.
The next day, NISS suspended Al-Saiha indefinitely. The decision came against the background of publishing several stories on corruption cases within government institutions. The famous amongst which was the corruption accusation against the current undersecretary of the justice ministry, Esam al-Din abdel-Gadir.
Abdel-Gadir was accused of taking advantage of his powers to obtain several residential lands when he served as director of the land department.
He did not deny the information published by the newspaper but said he obtained them without misusing his powers, underscoring that he bought those investment lands legally.
Abdel-Gadir filed defamation charges against the newspaper leading to the arrest of its editor-in-chief.
On Thursday, the state security prosecution summoned editor Hafez Al-Khair and columnist Salah Awouda for investigation.
The state security prosecution on Wednesday led a raid on the headquarters of Al-Saiha.
Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) quoted state security prosecutor Yasser Ahmed Mohamed that they took action against the newspaper under articles 21/24/25/26/55/66 of the Criminal Code and article 24/26 of the Press and Publications Law.
Mohamed said that the raid was carried out over suspicion of violation of Article 55 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits circulating government documents outside the official channels.
The prosecution said he found many published and unpublished documents adding that investigation will continue in response to NISS complaint.
The Sudanese minister of information Ahmed Bilal Osman said the NISS has the legal right to suspend Al-Saiha and any media raising confusion and dissension in the country.
He, however, reaffirmed that the suspension in such cases does not mean reneging on freedom of information.
Al-Saiha was launched recently by the chairman of the Just Peace Forum (JPF) party and President Bashir’s maternal uncle, al-Tayeb Mustafa, after the NISS forced him out of his previous newspaper al-Intibaha.
NISS banned Al-Intibaha after JPF spoke out against economic measures announced last September, condemning the bloody repression of anti-austerity protests that broke out following the decision. The paper was allowed to resume operations on the condition that Mustafa step down as chairman.
The JPF, a splinter faction of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), is a radical Islamist and separatist party. During the transitional period of 2005-2011, it campaigned strongly for separation between Sudan and the South.