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Mass arrests of journalists, fears for safety

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests the wave of arrests of journalists in Sudan during recent street protests calling for democratic change in Sudan. In particular it is concerned by the incommunicado detention of at least 12 journalists, 11 of whom were arrested between January and February 2011. The WiPC considers these detentions to be in violation of the journalists' right to freedom of expression, and calls on the Sudanese authorities to disclose their whereabouts and bring about their immediate and unconditional release.

PEN is seriously concerned about the safety of nine journalists from "Al-Midan" opposition newspaper. Reporters Samir Salah Eldin, Mohamed Rahama, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, Suleiman Wida'a, Khaled Tawfiq, Mohaned el-Dirdiri, Fatima Bashir and Fathia Tinga were all arrested on 3 February for their coverage of street protests on 30 January and their whereabouts are unknown. PEN International is concerned for their safety and they are considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

According to PEN's information, several other journalists are still being held by the security services in Khartoum. Hamza Baloul and Ali Ahmad Haj Al- Amin of "Al-Ahdath" newspaper were arrested on 10 January by the security forces for covering students' protests and they are believed still be held incommunicado. Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim from "Alsahafa" newspaper was arrested on 3 November 2010 and his whereabouts are still unknown. PEN is also concerned about the safety of these three journalists.

Five other journalists from "Alsahafa", "Akhbar al-Youm", "Al-Jarida" and "Ajras Al-huriya" were arrested on 10 January and released on 1 February.

On 2 February, Abu Eisha Kazim and Abdel Gadir Bakash of "Sawt al- Bar'out" were acquitted by a court in Khartoum after being charged with "attempting to overthrow the government". They were arrested on 10 January for covering street protests in Khartoum.

The WiPC considers the journalists' detention to be in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and calls on the Sudanese authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, it urges the authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detained journalists, and seeks assurances that they will not be ill treated while in detention.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals:

- Protesting the arrest and incommunicado detention of "Al-Midan" journalists Samir Salah Eldin, Mohamed Rahama, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, Suleiman Wida'a, Khaled Tawfiq, Mohaned el-Dirdiri, Fatima Bashir, Fathia Tinga, journalists Hamza Baloul and Ali Ahmad Haj Al-Amin of "Al-Ahdath" and Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim of "Alsahafa", which the WiPC believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression;

- Urging the Sudanese authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detained journalists and guarantee them immediate access to family and lawyers;

- Calling on the authorities to release these journalists immediately and unconditionally.


APPEALS TO:

HE President Omar Al Bashir
Office of the President
People's Palace
PO Box 281
Khartoum
Fax: +249 183 774339
Salutation: Your Excellency

Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
Director of the NISS
NISS Headquarters
Khartoum
Salutation: Dear Director Abbas

And copies to:

Dr Priscilla Joseph
Chair of the Human Rights Committee
National Assembly
Omdurman
Fax: +249 187 560 980
Salutation: Dear Dr Joseph

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sudan in your country if possible.

Details of some Sudanese embassies around the world can be seen here:
http://www.africaguide.com/country/sudan/offices.htm

Please send appeals as soon as possible. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 20 February 2011.
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