Sudan - Restoration of censorship condemned as "illegal and saddening"



    MONTREAL, March 7 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders deplores the
censorship and harassment to which Sudan's privately-owned media have been
subjected since the start of the year. Arrests, summonses, threats and
outright bans on certain news items - the campaign waged by the government
against the independent press is reducing the space for free expression even
more.
    "It should be an honour for Sudan to let the many Khartoum-based daily
newspapers operate freely and express a wide range of views," the press
freedom organisation said. "But no, the authorities have instead chosen to
send zealous censors to the printeries, people without authority, legitimacy
or clear ideas. This censorship is not only illegal, it is also saddening."
    The government decided to reestablish censorship for the privately-owned
media on 6 February after the media referred on several occasions the support
it was providing for a Chadian rebel offensive against the Chadian capital of
N'Djamena. An unidentified official with the National Security Service told
Reuters on 6 March that prior censorship had been reintroduced, confirming the
impression already reached by the Khartoum-based press after a month of
harassment by the political police.
    According to journalists quoted by Reuters, NSS officials began on 6
February to descend on the offices of newspapers every evening to check the
content of the next day's issue before it went to press. On 10 February, for
example, the police suppressed an article by Haider al-Mikashfy in the
Arabic-language daily Al-Sahafa about a recent speech by NSS chief Salah Gosh
accusing some journalists of working for "foreign embassies" and warning that
"investigations" were under way.
    In the latest example of this permanent surveillance, NSS officials burst
into the printing works of the privately-owned weekly Al-Midan on 3 March and
forced employees to remove two reports from the next issue. One was about the
acquittal of its editor, Al-Tijani Al-Tayyib Babiker, on charges of
"disturbing the peace." The other referred to a decision by an armed group in
Darfur to open an office in Israel. In response, the weekly's staff decided to
delay publication, and the issue did not appear until 5 March.
    Before that, two NSS members burst into Al-Midan's printing works on 26
February and partially censored two articles about the use of torture on
detainees in Sudan.
    A total of seven journalists from five newspapers were questioned on 18
and 19 February for publishing reports about a reshuffle in top positions in
the police force. The first two to be questioned were Al-Ahdath editor Adil
Al-Baz and Al-Watan editor Ahmed Khalifa, who interrogated on 18 February and
were held overnight.
    The next day, five more were summoned for questioning. They were Al-Wifaq
news editor Mohammed Said al-Tayeb, Akher Lahza editor Moustapha Abou
Al-Alalem and one of his journalists, Mey Ali Adem, and Al-Rai al-Aam editor
Kamal Hassan Bakhit and one of his journalists, Hafiz al-Khayr. All seven were
released on bail on 19 February.
    On 14 February, the security forces prevented the privately-owned daily
Al-Rai al-Shaab from publishing after it referred to the government's support
for the Chadian rebels.
    Censorship was officially lifted in Sudan in July 2005 after a peace
accord was signed with the rebels of the southern Sudan People's Liberation
Movement.
    http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=26065




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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