Sudan has been urged to stop censoring a daily newspaper after employees at al-Midan went on strike and the newspaper failed to appear on February 10.
According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information says that authorities require that
the newspapers send a copy of each edition to the Media section of intelligence for pre-publishing approval with an intelligence office for each newspaper. The list of forbidden topics described as sensitive includes Darfur, Abyei, the Water Dams
projects in northern Sudan and any criticism of the president, the armed forces or intelligence.
The latest dispute arose after the observer expunged six internal pages and removed some topics entirely from the prepared proofs, meaning that they
were rendered meaningless and useless.
In a statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemned the pre- and post-publishing censorship on the Sudanese press, considering it as a blatant violation of the right to freedom of
expression, opinion and media provided by the interim constitution. Therefore ANHRI demands the Sudanese government end all forms of unlawful censorship against journalists.
The Sudanese authorities banned a daily newspaper for two days for their coverage of press conference held by the Secretary General of the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement and articles on the press freedom.
Ajras Al-Hurriya, a pro-SPLM daily
newspaper had been banned by the security service on Thursday and Friday for the coverage of a press conference held by Pagan Amum the SPLM secretary general and some editorials written by the editor in chief and other journalists on the draft of new
In a press release the daily denounced the abusive censorship saying other newspapers were allowed to publish the same coverage of Pagan statements. It also added that security officials remove official’s news, interviews and even the
More than 50 Sudanese journalists protested outside the National Assembly in Omdurman on Tuesday against a draft law of press largely criticized for repressive articles it includes.
The new press bill put the media and the media houses under the
control of the Sudanese presidency which appoint 8 of the 21 members of the Press Council. No media house will be established or journalist authorized to exercise this activity without a licence from the council.
Also the disputed bill allows the
council to close newspapers and authorizes the judge to impose 50,000 new Sudanese pound fines for infractions.
Sudanese Journalists Network, which includes hundreds of independent journalists said that it organized the protest against the
new draft press law because it limits the freedom of the press and impose restrictions on journalists and frightens them by an arsenal of sanctions.
The demonstration comes as the Sudanese parliament begun today to discuss the contested
draft of the press law. Some 150 legislators from the SPLM and opposition National Democratic Alliance boycotted the discussion to mark their position from this bill restrictive of press freedom.
Sudanese media have suffered multiple blows in recent months as parliament considers a harshly repressive press bill and authorities impose an exceptional level of censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The press bill,
introduced in the Sudanese National Assembly in April, falls far short of international standards for free expression, according to CPJ's analysis.
The bill grants the National Council for the Press and Publications unprecedented authority to
grant and revoke publication licenses; impose strict disciplinary measures against journalists; conduct examination of journalists to determine their suitability for the profession; and confiscate printing equipment. Eight of the council's 21 members
would be appointed by the president, according to the bill. The president's office would have sole oversight of the National Council for the Press and Publications.
According to the bill, newspapers would have to renew licenses annually and
journalists must be registered with the council in order to work. Journalists can be fined up to 50,000 new Sudanese pounds (US$21,000) for violating any provision of the bill, according to Article 37. Article 26 stipulates that an editor-in-chief bears
primary legal responsibility for all matters appearing in a newspaper, but it assigns legal responsibility to writers, editors, publishers, printers, and distributors as well.
In another alarming development, local journalists told CPJ that
security agents are imposing censorship at an ever-increasing rate. The 1999 National Security Forces Law grants security forces significant powers over the media.
Around 9 p.m. every day, security officers visit newspapers to determine what they
can print and what will be censored, journalists told CPJ. It is totally arbitrary, Murtadha al-Ghali, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Ajras al-Huriya, told CPJ. [The officer] removes certain articles from our newspaper and the next
day other newspapers publish similar articles.
Sudanese parliament agreed to remove the
heavy fine imposed on the journalists in a draft law discussed currently by the legislators, the head of Sudanese journalists syndicate said.
Mahi Eddin Titawi, said yesterday they had agreed with a National Assembly subcommittee reviewing the
contested press draft law to drop the fine of 50,000 Sudanese pound (21,500 US dollars) that journalists could face for unspecified offences.
Titawi further said the journalists would not have to be registered at the government controlled press
council but at the journalists syndicate.
Sudan Monday passed an amended version of
a media bill that sparked protests in Khartoum last month, but the new version failed to allay the fears of many Sudanese journalists.
A peace accord, which ended more than 20 years of fighting between the north and south, also promised Sudan's
first free elections in 24 years. Analysts and Sudanese opposition politicians have said a new press law is crucial for the February ballot.
Journalists said Monday they were pleased legislators had removed a section from earlier drafts that
would have allowed a powerful press council to fine journalists or newspapers up to 50,000 Sudanese Pounds ($21,000). In the final version, law courts decide penalties and can choose how long to suspend newspapers.
But the new press bill leaves
room for state interference on the grounds of national security or public order and it remains unclear if censorship will be reduced.
As Sudan prepares for the first general elections in decades, President Omar al-Beshir lifts censorship on the press.
As of today, censorship is over and journalists have complete freedom, said a presidential decree carried by the official
SUNA news agency.
Head of the country's Press Council, Ali Shimo, said the pre-censorship system was called off after editors, journalists' associations and censors signed an ethics code for practicing journalism.
Up to now, a
group of government-led sensors screened newspapers every night before hitting the stands to purge them of sensitive articles despite a law guaranteeing freedom of the press .
Under the law, passed in parliament in June, the press
were granted freedom but banned from provoking religious or ethnic or racial sedition or calling for war or violence, while respecting and protecting public ethics, religious values and those found guilty of violating the press law had to
pay a fixed penalty set by the courts. But in practice, the law was impractical and the censors continued their job.
The new press law and lifting of censorship will only be applied to the written press and not to television.
A Sudanese newspaper said it would suspend publication for one week in protest at stringent censorship by authorities, as five other papers were censored in Africa's largest country, journalists said.
Direct pre-publication censorship was
reintroduced for two daily papers last month and four others also complained they were visited by Sudanese security forces who removed many pages of content.
We will suspend our newspaper for a week in protest at the pre-(publication)
censorship, said Faiz Al-Silaik, acting editor in chief of the Ajras Al-Huriya paper, aligned to the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
Ajras Al-Huriya was unable to go to press on Sunday for the third day in a row and
the opposition Al-Meydan, aligned to the Communist Party, was not allowed to print.
They went to the printing press...and they told the press not to print the paper, said managing editor Mohamed el-Fatih from Al-Meydan. The main news
they were unhappy about seemed to be the doctors' strike.
Journalists from six independent or opposition papers told Reuters they were visited and directly censored by the security forces late on Saturday night.
Other papers said they
were called and told not to write about specific news including the strike by doctors over pay and working conditions and the International Criminal Court, unless it was from a government source.
The Sudanese General Union of Sudanese Journalists moderated a dialogue between the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and two independent
newspapers subject to pre-publication censorship and managed to lift it as a result, state media reported today.
The Secretary general of the pro-government union Mohyideen Tetawi said that they will defend press freedom by all means but at the
same time stressed that the country's sovereignty and dignity is a red line cannot be overstepped .
Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir last year lifted press censorship after petitions from the journalists' union but warned editor in
chiefs that they should avoid what leads to exceeding the red lines and avoid mixing what is patriotic and what is destructive to the nation, sovereignty, security, values and its morality .
Sudan intelligence services have imposed press censorship, which was lifted in September, six months ahead of a key referendum on independence for south Sudan, the country's association of journalists said.
We have been notified by the
intelligence services that the newspaper Al-Intibaha has been closed and that from today press censorship has once again been imposed, Mohiedinne Titawi, president of the Sudanese Union of Journalists, told AFP.
The censorship will focus on
the issue of the country's unity or separation and the security of south Sudan, he added.
Titawi's comments follow earlier reports by Sudanese journalists that the government halted the distribution of three newspapers considered critical of
the authorities in south Sudan.
The three dailies, Al-Intibaha, Al-Tayyar and Al-Ahdath, which are all deemed critical in one way or another of the south Sudan authorities, were not available on the streets of the capital on Tuesday, according to
journalists working for the publications.
Al-Intibaha, which will be closed for an undetermined period, according to its editor Al-Siddig al-Rizeigui, was one of the only newspapers openly advocating secession.
Sudan's National Assembly has welcomed the National Security Organ's decision to lift censorship, terming it as a significant step toward boosting press freedoms.
Abdurham Ahmed Al-Sheikh Al-Fadni, the Head Acting Human Rights Committee, hailed
the initiative of the national press to serve national interests and enlightenment on challenging facing the country. He said the decision would put Sudanese press before a new challenge with regard to performing its duties toward the country through
self-monitoring and complying with the Press Ethic, Press Association and Press & Prints Council.
Lieut. Gen. Mohamed Ataa, Chief of National Security and Intelligence affirmed that the organ preserves it constitutional right to impose partial
or full censorship whenever necessary, adding that the security organ is keen on press and political rights as long as there is common agreement to prejudice against principles of the country and unity of its territories.
Amnesty International calls on Sudan to release 16 people seized during a raid on a newspaper headquarters in Khartoum.
16 people, including nine members of staff working with the Communist party-affiliated newspaper Al-Midan, were arrested by
National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents.
The Sudanese government must immediately release all those detained during this blatant attempt to stifle free speech, said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa
Program director: The people of Sudan have every right to peaceful protest without fear of arrest, assault and harassment. And the media have every right to freely report these events.
The Al-Midan newspaper was banned from distributing an
edition which carried reports covering protests in Khartoum inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt. Opposition newspaper Ajrass Al Hurriya and independent Al Sahafa were also stopped from distributing similar reports.
Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire Sunday edition of an independent newspaper, its editor said.
Sudan's constitution supposedly guarantees press freedom but several journalists have been detained without charge in recent months and papers
are often subject to direct censorship.
Police came after midnight and took all copies after we had printed it. They gave no explanation, said Osman Murghni, editor of Al-Tayar newspaper. He said authorities had not informed the newspaper
why the edition was taken and he said it was probably to show its disapproval of coverage of Monday's elections in South Kordofan.
Sudan's government is considering introducing even more restrictions on the country's press..
The Sudanese National Assembly is considering introducing a new press and publications law that will further restrict freedom of expression in the North.
Sudan's National Congress Party (NCP) is contemplating enforcing pre-publication censorship as it did between 1989 and 2009. Following this, the government passed a new law, which it claimed was a step towards press freedom. However, despite the new law,
pre-publication censorship was selectively enforced by the regime during Sudan's 2010 elections.
The details of the proposed legislation have not been made available to the public.
Sudan will suspend six sports newspapers and issue warnings to three others, the national press council said, for supposed violations including encouraging violence between rival soccer teams, in the latest crackdown on the media.
Press Council will suspend the sports newspapers because they had violated journalistic standards and for administrative issues, which are damaging Sudan's reputation, its Secretary General El-Obeid Ahmed Morawah said. He cited the encouragement of
violence between competing football teams as one violation.
In July, two female journalists of the al-Jarida daily were sentenced to one month in prison for writing an article about the alleged rape of an activist by security forces. The security forces have categorically denied the rape allegations.
Security forces have now informed al-Jarida staff that it will no longer be allowed to publish, said editor-in-chief Saad el-Din Ibrahim.
They told us about a decision by security forces that the newspaper will be closed and its property will be confiscated. They didn't give a reason. Staff were told by them to take their personal belongings.
The entire print-run of two Sudanese newspapers have been seized by The National Intelligence and Security Services.
Al-Tayar and Al-Youm Al-Tali newspapers 20th February editions were confiscated after they published statements made by Hassan
al-Turabi the leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP). Turabi alleged that his office had been wiretapped by security services, and showed journalists some of the listening devices he found. Security agents arrived at the newspaper's Khartoum offices
and seized the expose edition.
Twenty newspaper reporters protested the confiscation in front of the National Press Council, which licenses newspapers.
Sudan's authorities have forced closure of country's largest daily newspaper
At the end of September, Al-Intibaha's official website said that authorities had ordered the halt indefinitely.
The paper, the country's largest in terms of
circulation, is owned and run by al-Tayab Mustafa, the president's uncle. The closure comes after a week of Sudan's most extensive demonstrations in years , which began as a protest against fuel price hikes.
The two most influential independent newspapers in Sudan, Al-Sahafa and Al-Kartoum, have recently been bought by the National Intelligence
Security Service (NISS).
The NISS now owns 90% of all the independent newspapers in the country, according to Alnoor Ahmed Alnoor, the ex-editor in chief of Al-Sahafa.
The NISS purchased 65% of Al-Sahafa's stock from a company called
Bayader and a further 25% from Sideeq Wadaa, a businessman and member of the ruling NCP Party (with the remainder retained by the paper's founder, Taha Ali Albashir). This follows the purchase of 80% of the stock of Al-Khartoum from its owner, Albagir
Abdellah, five months ago.
Ownership represents the final stage in the Sudanese government's campaign to silence independent voices in the media. Newspapers that refused to tow the NCP line or implement its agendas faced harassment, and fifteen
newspapers were forcibly closed following the independence of South Sudan in 2011. Punitive taxes were also imposed, as was the case with the Al-Sudani between 2006 to 2011, which eventually forced the paper's owner to sell it to a member of the NCP.