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Sudanese journalists protest suspension of al-Saiha newspaper

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June 1, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Several Sudanese journalists have demonstrated on Sunday in front of the National Council for Press and Publications’ (NCPP) headquarters in Khartoum to protest against suspension of al-Saiha daily newspaper.

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Sudanese newspaper vendors at a bus station in Khartoum (AP)

They handed NCPP’s officials a memorandum calling for their immediate intervention to protect newspapers against the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) crackdown and stop suspension of journalists.

The memo also noted that the media scene in the country is witnessing an “alarming setback”, highlighting that the presidency and the information minister are threatening to suspend any newspaper that crosses the “red lines”.

“Those red lines are loose and many-sided like the contour lines, and they tighten. according to the mood of the rulers”, the memo read.

On May 19th, 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 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.

Al-Saiha was launched last March by the chairman of the Just Peace Forum (JPF) party and President Bashir’s maternal uncle, al-Tayeb Mustafa, after NISS forced him out of his previous newspaper al-Intibaha.

On May 17, 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.

NISS filed charges against 13 of Al-Saiha journalists at the state security prosecution. Those journalists are being summoned on a daily basis for charges relating to news reports and columns written during the newspaper’s short lifespan.

Al-Saiha editor in chief, Yasser Mahjoub Al-Hussein, told Sudan Tribune that authorities punish them through daily summoning of himself besides the chairman of the board of directors and the journalists to question them on material published in 20 issues of the newspaper.

He interpreted the move as an attempt to prolong the investigation in order to suspend the newspaper for the longest possible time and prevent transferring the case to the court.

“NISS was the judge when it suspended the newspaper and now it turned into our opponent after it filed a complaint against us”, he said.

Osman Mudawi, a journalist working for al-Saiha, said he and his colleague, Abdel-Wahab Jumaa, appeared on Sunday before the state security prosecution for investigation regarding publication of a news report about financial transfers between Sudan and Egypt.

While Yassin Al-Hudaibi, a journalist at the same newspaper, told Sudan Tribune that he and his two colleagues, Nebawiya Sir Al-Khatim, and Marwa Kamal will appear before the same prosecutor on Monday for publishing investigative report on expired drugs and an interview with the secretary general of the Consumer Protection Association (CPA), Yasser Mirghani.

Al-Hussein said the newspaper suffered heavy financial losses since it was suspended two weeks ago, noting the daily losses are estimated at 30,000 Sudanese pounds (SDG) totaling 500,000 SDG besides other non-financial losses.

He added that they protested against unconstitutional measures which were taken against their newspaper, expressing hope that authorities respond to their just and constitutional demands and cancel the suspension decision.

On May 28, the office of Sudan’s state security prosecutor led a raid on the headquarters of al-Saiha. The state security prosecutor Yasser Ahmed Mohamed said 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.

On Thursday, the state security prosecutor ordered a publication ban on the case of Al-Saiha shortly before Land Affairs prosecution police arrested the latter’s editor in chief and managing editor.

(ST)

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