Home | News    Friday 16 May 2008

Sudan newspaper closed for publishing report on missing fighter jet

May 15, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese authorities conducted a raid on a daily newspaper yesterday and ordered its closure on the grounds that it published military information.

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Sudanese MIG-29 during a military parade in Khartoum December 31 2007 (Sudaninside.com)

The pro-government Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website said that Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service issued a decree suspending the publication of the Arabic language Alwan newspaper.

Gosh also ordered freezing the properties and assets of Alwan while filing a police complaint against its editor in Hussein Khogali.

SMC said that the decree was issued because Alwan “disclosed sensitive military information harmful to the country’s security and its accomplishments”.

Multiple sources said that a column in the newspaper speaking about a Russian fighter jet and its Russian pilot, who went missing after the attack by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on the Sudanese capital last Saturday, caused the closure.

“The rumor about the missing MIG-29 belonging to the armed forces during the incidents in Omdurman got no confirmation or denial from the government or JEM even though everybody is looking at the sky and inquiring about the fate of the fighter jet and the Russian pilot” was the text published in the newspaper that triggered the crackdown by Sudanese security.

Khogali is considered close to Hassan Al-Turabi, leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), who used to be former ally of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, was the government’s ideological mastermind in the 1990s and the De-facto ruler.

However Al-Bashir and Al-Turabi split ranks and the latter was jailed on accusations of conspiracy. He was released in October 2003.

The opposition leader was jailed again for more than a year in 2004 over accusations of connections with an alleged coup plot before being released in 2005.

Sudanese authorities have stepped up their censorship of Sudanese newspapers after the Chadian rebels backed by Khartoum launched an attack on Ndjamena.

Many Sudanese journalists at the time pointed fingers to their government of masterminding the attack on Ndjamena.

Gosh lashed out at journalists who made such allegations during a press conference last February.

The spy chief, who appeared shaken at the press conference, said that some journalists want to be “fake heroes” by accusing the government of supporting Chadian rebels describing that as “cheap”.

“We know that there are some journalists who are in contact with some embassies and receiving money from them” he added.

Many journalists have been subject to questioning by security services recently. Reuters said that another journalist was summoned, held overnight and questioned over telephone calls with the Darfur JEM last Tuesday.

(ST)