Home | News    Tuesday 17 February 2015

Sudan remains defiant after clampdown on 14 newspapers


February 16, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Monday seized copies of fourteen newspapers from printing press without giving reasons.

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A Sudanese man reads a newspaper as he waits to pay at a kiosk in the capital Khartoum (AFP)

The confiscated newspapers included the social newspapers Hikayat and Al-Dar besides 11 political newspapers including Al-Sudani, Al-Rayaam, Al-Intibaha, Al-Tayar, Al-Saiha, Akhir Lahza, Awal Al-Nahar, Al-Migher Al-Siyasi, Al-Watan, Alwan, Al-Ahram Al-Youm and Akhbar Al-Youm.

The deputy chairman of the pro-government Sudan Journalists Union (SJU), Mohamed al-Fatih, told Sudan Tribune that most of the social and political newspapers were confiscated from the printing press today except Al-Ayaam, Al-Youm Al-Tali, Al-Mustaqilla, Al-Akhbar, Al-Wifaq, Al-Sahafa, Al-Taghyeer, Al-Jareeda and Al-Khartoum.

Al-Fatih said he called the SJU’s executive office for an emergency meeting to determine the circumstances of this rare incident and the number of confiscated copies, warning that the move places heavy financial burden on the already suffering newspapers.

Later on the day, the SJU issued a carefully worded statement denouncing the move and describing it as a “setback” in the course of press freedoms.

“This move is not commensurate with the constitutional developments and the prevailing atmosphere of freedoms and dialogue”, the statement read.

It expressed regret over applying special measures against newspapers away from the Press and Publishing Act which governs press practice in the country.

The statement said the SJU would initiate transparent dialogue among political leadership, NISS and the press institutions to stop applying extraordinary measures against newspapers.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s minister of information, Ahmed Bilal Osman, said the newspapers were seized according to the law, threatening that any attempt to compromise national security will be swiftly dealt with using the law.

Osman, who spoke at a forum held by the official news agency SUNA on Monday, added that NISS would carry out its duties if newspapers published any reports which threaten economic or social security or cause sedition or chaos.

Sudan’s Journalists’ Association for Human Rights (JAHR), for its part, described this development as a “qualitative precedent” in the record of confiscating newspaper after printing.

It said the growing phenomenon of seizing copies of all newspapers including those owned by NISS represents an unprecedented escalation against freedom of expression and publishing.

Several journalists told Sudan Tribune the move was more likely a reaction to reports published by those newspapers claiming that a journalist working for Al-Dar newspaper has vanished under suspicious circumstances but he was later found “wandering” in the River Nile state according to police statement on Sunday.

The police statement denied that journalist, Siraj al-Din al-Na’im, went missing in unclear circumstances, accusing the newspapers of lacking objectivity in dealing with the issue.

It added that Al-Na’im told the police during the investigation that he was “unconscious” since he left his home in Khartoum and unaware of his whereabouts.

The statement pointed that the incident was a private matter and there was no suspicion of criminal or hostile acts against the journalist.

However, several other journalists attributed NISS’s move to reports published on
Monday saying that presidential guards prevented the leader of the former rebel Justice and Liberation Movement Dabajo (JEM-Dabajo), Bakheit Abdallah Dabajo, from entering the Sudanese presidency on Sunday.

While another journalist said the move was caused by publishing news on the decision of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to extend polling in upcoming elections to three days compared to on day in 2010 elections.

Sudan’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression but laws subordinate to the constitution such as the National Security Forces Act of 2010 contains articles that can be potentially used to curtail press freedom and instigate legal proceedings against newspapers and individual journalists.

Sudanese journalists work under tight daily censorship controls exercised by the NISS.
Journalists say that confiscation and suspension of newspapers is a commonly used practice by the local authorities to overburden the newspapers with financial losses alongside other non-financial pressures.

NISS recently intensified its crackdown on press in the country accusing them of crossing the red lines through publishing reports which adversely impact the national security.


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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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