November 25, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese government may agree to lift press censorship imposed earlier this year, an official said today.
The head of the commission for newspaper and prints Ali Shumo was quoted by the daily Al-Hayat newspaper published in London as saying that he sent a request to the presidency for censorship to be lifted.
Shumo expressed optimism that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir would approve the request but gave no details.
Last week Sudanese authorities arrested over 70 journalists who demonstrated outside the national parliament to protest against press censorship.
The journalists gathered to present a memorandum to the lawmakers asking them to revise Press and Media Law and to make it conform to the interim constitution.
But Sudan’s spy Chief Salah Gosh who met with a number of journalistic figures dismissed the protests stressing that “censorship will not be lifted under pressure from anybody”.
“Censorship was lifted more than once and again imposed because of repeated violations by newspapers to journalism code of ethics and not considering the political interests, foreign and economic interests of the country” he said.
A political analyst in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune last week that he thinks the protests “embarrassed the government internationally”.
“They never expected that a large number of journalists would dare to hold a protest publicly and in that strong manner” said the analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The minister of state for humanitarian affairs, Ahmed Mohamed Haroun made an unpublicised visit to Ajras Al-Hurriya newspaper last week and promised editors that the government is leaning towards lifting censorship but asked them to hold off on any further protests.
Ajras Al-Hurriya has been most hit by press restrictions had failed to appear more than 20 times since its April 7 launch owing to censors.
The daily is closely linked to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main partner of the National Congress Party and the ruling party in southern Sudan.
Freedom of the press was guaranteed in Sudan in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the north and south, but journalists have repeatedly complained about print-run seizures and other harassment.
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 last February.
Gosh lashed out at journalists who made such allegations during a press conference at the time.
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.