July 6, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) ordered the suspension of al-Saiha newspaper less than 24 hours after it resumed publication following a previous ban by the security apparatus.
- Al-Tayeb Mustafa, chief of the Just Peace Forum (JPF) party (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
Sudan Tribune has learned that NISS agents instructed al-Kazimiya print house not to print any issue of al-Saiha until further notice.
Al-Saiha editor in chief of al-Saiha Yasser Mahjoub also received a phone call from NISS media department informing him that the newspaper is suspended without giving him reasons.
Journalists at al-Saiha told Sudan Tribune that their first post-suspension issue on Sunday contained columns that directed strong criticism of government policies especially by Mahjoub, newspaper owner al-Tayeb Mustafa and managing editor Ahmed Youssef Altai.
Mustafa is president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s maternal uncle.
The Sunday edition also contained a lengthy interview with former ruling party figure Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani who slammed the parliament for dropping his membership along with others while maintaining that of notorious militia leader Musa Hilal.
The parliament justified the move by saying that al-Attabani changed political affiliation and formed his own party and noted his prolonged absence from national assembly sessions.
Hilal who also missed significant amount of parliamentary sessions was excluded after the speaker pointed out that the tribal leader sought permission in a written request.
But al-Attabani told al-Saiha that Hilal was kept in the parliament because he protects his seat “using his arms” in reference to his militia.
Last May, NISS director Mohamed Atta Abbas al-Moula ordered the suspension of al-Saiha after it published stories on corruption at the justice ministry. The famous amongst which was the corruption accusation against the current undersecretary of the justice ministry, Esam al-Din abdel-Gadir.
The Sudanese minister of information Ahmed Bilal Osman said at the time that the NISS has the legal right to suspend al-Saiha and any media raising confusion and dissension in the country.
The state security prosecution led a raid on the headquarters of al-Saiha, following the suspension over suspicion of violation of Article 55 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits circulating government documents outside the official channels.
This week, al-Saiha senior staff signed a pledge to the NISS that the newspaper will adhere to professionalism and accurate reporting and abide by the constitution and laws while taking into account national security.
Mahjoub defended their pledge, saying it does not breach journalistic norms and revealed that the deal was a result of Bakri Hassan Salih, Sudan’s first vice-president, instructing NISS officials to sit down with the newspaper’s management to resolve the dispute.
He insisted that avoiding corruption stories was not incorporated in the pledge they signed with the NISS.
The chief editor said that the newspaper incurred heavy financial losses due to suspension and said that frustration dominated the editors during that time, as well adding that the staff was jubilant over the NISS decision.
He has previously estimated the financial losses at 30,000 pounds.
The NISS media department this week welcomed the return of al-Saiha and urged it to continue to discharge its mission with professionalism and responsibility, and noted the critical importance of balancing between freedom and responsibility “for the benefit the nation and the stability of society".
The security apparatus enjoys far reaching powers in Sudan and is entitled under the National Security Act to shut down newspapers and confiscate an entire edition. It also sends its officers to screen stories before they go to print.
Yesterday, NISS seized all copies of al-Tayyar Saturday edition.