- While the government of Sudan is under increased international pressure to solve the Darfur crisis, "media censorship and harassment and detention of journalists" is reportedly been stepped up. Sudanese newspapers have been instructed by the army "not to report" on the situation in Darfur, according to human rights groups.
Sudan's National Security Forces (NSA) has "stepped up its campaign of attacking and restricting the media and freedom of expression in Sudan," according to the London-based Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT). This was in contradiction to the presidential decree on press freedom, issued one year ago, which 'officially' had lifted the censorship on newspapers operating under the jurisdiction of the NSA.
As of 11 September, however, "Pre-censorship" had again been imposed by the NSA. Chief editors of all Sudanese newspapers reportedly had been instructed not to report any news concerning the situation in Darfur or regarding the opposition National Popular Congress (PNC), headed by Hassan Al Turabi, with the exception of information released by the government.
From 12 September, the NSA had "resumed their pre-censorship policy by going to printers and reviewing and ordering the removal of articles prior to the printing of newspapers," according to information gathered by SOAT.
- Also, there has been resumption in the targeting of journalists through detention or summons, the London-based group claims. SOAT quotes five examples of leading Sudanese journalists and editors that had been detained or censored only since the Sudanese army had retaken control over pre-censorship on 12 September.
Hussein Khogali, Chief Editor and owner of the daily Arabic 'Alalwan', allegedly was arrested on 12 September. According to SOAT, he was taken to Kober prison "where he remains in detention and no official charges have been filled against him." He is accused of supporting Mr Al Turabi's PNC, which calls for a tougher Islamist line than the current Khartoum government. Mr Al Turabi is a former Vice President of Sudan.
Also Osman Mirgani - columnist for the Arabic daily 'Alray al-Aam' - was reportedly summoned on 12 September. He was detained for several hours and was "ordered not to write or comment on any issues concerning the PNC or its leaders," receiving threats from the army. His column, 'Hadeeth Almadina', dated 12 September, was removed prior to printing by the security officers, for writing about the PNC.
Faisal Mohamed Salih, a prominent journalist and the new editor of the Arabic daily 'Aladdwaa', was ordered to report to the security forces office on 13 September and was reportedly detained for four hours. He was warned not to publish or report any articles on the PNC. 'Aladdwaa' was "targeted on several occasions by the NSA in the first week of the activation of the censorship policy," and one daily column had been removed due to the security censorship, SOAT reports.
Also SOAT itself had been targeted, the group reports. Faisal Elbagir, reporting for SOAT and Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) in Sudan, had been "summoned by the security forces on 16 September and detained for 9 hours at the NSA offices." Mr Faisal's weekly column in 'Aladdwaa' newspaper was removed prior to the printing of the Thursday's edition. The column had criticised the security services actions of targeting, arresting and detaining journalists, and the 1999 National Security Act.
Despite censorship being officially abolished in December 2001, the Khartoum government is said to continue to "be repressive in clamping down on the freedom of the press particularly as the situation in Darfur deteriorates," according to SOAT.
The group today protested these developments, saying it believed the pre-censorship order would "severely limit the ability of the Sudanese Press to present information on the Darfur crisis because of the fear of harassment, arrest, detention of journalists, confiscation and fines, confiscation and arbitrary suspension of newspapers." SOAT urged the government to "immediately stop the harassments, summoning and arbitrary arrests of journalists."
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