July 20, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The deputy chairman of the government-controlled Union of Sudanese Journalists (USJ), Al-Fatih Al-Said, has directed rare criticism against the authorities accusing them of “committing mistakes” against freedom of information as independent journalists held a strike to protest what they describe as increased security crackdown on newspapers.
Sudanese newspapers have been facing increased government censorship in recent weeks amid growing street protests over worsening economic conditions which recently led some papers to shut down or resort to massive redundancies in order to remain in business. A number of individual journalists have also been arrested and two foreign correspondents have been expelled for covering the unrest.
Addressing a symposium held in Omduramn town on Wednesday, Al-Said sought to defend USJ against accusations of turning a blind eye to the arrests of journalists stating that “we reject the arrest of journalists no matter the reasons or justifications”
Al-Said said that the state must protect press freedom before admitting that the authorities are “committing mistakes against freedom of information”
Meanwhile, the Network of Sudanese Journalists (NSJ), an advocacy group, organised a three hour strike on Wednesday to protest the arrest of journalists. NSJ spokesman Khalid Ahmad said that they would hold a total strike if their demands are not met.
In a statement issued later, NSJ said that it was not enough for the government to censor and “choke” the papers economically through exorbitant custom taxes on printing materials, but recently resorted to more harsh methods by confiscating papers after their editions are printed and shutting down some newspapers all together.
- Front page of Al Ahdath, December 11, 2011 (IMCT 2012)
Sudan Tribune has learned that the privately owned newspaper Al-Ahdath, which was suspended indefinitely by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) last month, had run out of business after its publishers could no longer afford to keep it.
Another paper, the pro-government daily Al-Sudani, has already fired 13 journalists as part of ongoing redundancies, sources told Sudan Tribune.
NSJ’s statement said that the NISS has been imposing “selective” censorship on some newspapers in order to control its contents. It also said that the NISS arrested some journalists in order to prevent them from working.
According to NSJ, these practices have “choked the papers economically” due to the absence of trust in their contents because the readers know that they are not allowed to publish facts.
NSJ demanded that the government release all detained journalists and reinstate all closed newspapers.