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Sudan censors newspapers for reporting FIFA suspension of Sudan Football Association

People watch a football match before Ramadan breakfast in Abu Shouk Camp in North Darfur, Sudan, 15 June 2017
People watch a football match before Ramadan breakfast in Abu Shouk Camp in North Darfur, Sudan, 15 June 2017

REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 13 July 2017.

Sudanese authorities should stop confiscating newspapers and censoring their coverage, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In recent days, the country's security service has confiscated or censored the coverage of at least five newspapers, according to press reports.

Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) today ordered the editors of the sports newspaper Al-Sada to remove articles pertaining to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)'s July 6, 2017 suspension of the Sudan Football Association (SFA) from membership in the group before publishing today's edition, according to news reports. On July 10, NISS officers confiscated all copies of the sports newspapers Al-Zawya and Al-Zaeem from the printers, news reports said, citing statements by the outlets.

In a statement NISS sent to Sudanese newspapers editors yesterday, officials instructed newspapers not to publish any reports that "target" Sudanese officials involved in the dispute with FIFA with "accusations" or criticism, according to news reports. The statement said that all coverage should "support efforts to resolve the problem," the reports said.

"Sudanese security officials' desperate attempts to censor the widely reported news of the country's suspension from FIFA only make them look foolish," CPJ's Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch said from Washington, D.C. "We call on Sudan to stop censoring and confiscating newspapers, and we call on FIFA to make clear to Sudan that such actions are inconsistent with the association's values."

FIFA suspended Sudan's membership after the Sudanese Ministry of Justice ordered SFA President Mutasim Gaafar Sir Elkhatim and the board of directors from office, on the orders of Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Salih, according to news reports. FIFA rules prohibit governmental interference in football matters. FIFA lifted the suspension today, after Sudanese authorities reinstated ElKhatim, according to a FIFA statement.

Sudanese authorities today confiscated all copies of the daily newspapers Al-Jarida, without explaining the reasons for the decision, according to news reports. NISS also summoned Al-Jarida's editor in chief, Ashraf Abdelaziz, and reporter Hanady al-Siddiq for questioning about a report alleging corruption in today's seized issue, according to the reports.

The NISS also confiscated all copies of Al-Wifaq today, also without explanation, according to Al-Wifaq journalist Imtithal Fadlallah writing on Facebook, and The Sudan Tribune. Fadlallah wrote on Facebook that the seizure of today's edition might have been related to an article in today's edition covering the sentencing of journalist and human rights defender Amal Habbani earlier this week.

The NISS did not immediately return CPJ's emails requesting comment.

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