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Sudanese journalist hauled before oil minister for questioning: media watchdog

December 1, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A Sudanese journalist was taken by agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to stand before the oil minister Makkawi Mohamed Awad for questioning about a story he published regarding a decision to lift subsidies on cooking gas, a media watchdog said on Monday.

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A man protests against the storming by security forces of two newspaper offices in Khartoum in May 2010 (AFP)

According to a statement by Sudan’s Journalists’ Association for Human Rights (JAHR), the oil minister summoned a journalist by the name of Mortada Ahmed from al-Ahram al-Youm newspaper on Sunday.

Shortly after Ahmed entered the newspaper on Sunday afternoon, NISS officers took him to the oil ministry upon orders from the minister.

JAHR said that Awad interrogated Ahmed at 1.30pm (local time) in his office in the ministry after which he was taken to a security office within the ministry where he was probed on the report pertaining to raising prices of cooking gas.

He was intimidated by the security and the minister as well as given orders to retract the story during the three-hours interrogation, JAHR said.

The front page of the Monday edition of al-Ahram al-Youm newspaper contained a denial by the oil minister of the government’s intention to raise the prices of cooking gas and stressed that he never submitted such a proposal to the parliament.

However, Awad did acknowledge that he received a study from an MP who is also a prominent businessman that contained a comparison of cooking gas prices in Sudan versus neighbouring countries.

JAHR condemned having security bodies in government ministries committing violations against journalists saying it reflects dominance of security organs in the country.

The watchdog said earlier this month that journalists are facing frivolous legal complaints from government officials which it described as an abuse of power and influence and an attempt to intimidate media houses to push them away from reporting on corruption or government performance.

Last June the National Council for Press and Press Publications in Sudan expressed concern over the use of extraordinary measures to suspend and confiscate newspapers.

In a related issue the NISS seized the Sunday edition of al-Jareeda newspaper without giving any reasons.

Last Tuesday, five journalists from the same newspaper underwent investigations at prosecution offices in the states of Khartoum and al-Jezira on charges of defamation.

JAHR praised the decision of Chief Justice Waheed Ahmed Dafalla issued on Tuesday to abolish press prosecution office in al-Jezira and transfer all pending cases to Khartoum state for adjudication.