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Secret police seize copies of six newspapers

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders called on the Sudanese government on 17 April 2008 to lift its almost three-month censorship of the privately-owned press in Khartoum which has intensified in recent days with the seizure of six daily newspapers.

"These are the most serious press freedom violations since the 2005 peace agreement that was supposed to end emergency laws," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Secret police surveillance of newspaper staff is outrageous and illegal and the national unity government must put a stop to it. The media, one of the better aspects of modern Sudan, is being punished without reason and in violation of the national constitution."

The National Security Service (NSS) domestic intelligence agency phoned the editors of 10 daily papers on 13 April and ordered them to henceforth submit all their content for prior approval under the censorship illegally reestablished on 6 February. But the papers all refused to comply and printed their editions in the normal way. The police then went to the printers and seized copies of "Ajras al-Huriyya", "Rai al-Shaab" and "Al-Ayyam" on 15 April.

The editions of "Al-Sudani", "al-Ahdath", "Ajras al-Huriyya", "Rai al-Shaab" and the English-language daily "The Citizen" were seized on 16 April after several tens of thousands of copies had been printed. The four Arabic-language dailies had been warned not to report on the press conference held the day before by the editors of "Ajras al-Huriyya" criticising the new censorship, a local journalist told Reporters Without Borders.

The government imposed censorship on 6 February on privately-owned media outlets after they had mentioned several times that the government was backing Chadian rebels in their attack on the Ndjamena government. After a month of secret police harassment of the press, an NSS official told Reuters news agency on 6 March that the prior censorship was "temporary." The same day, NSS agents went to newsrooms to check the content of the next day's paper before it was printed.

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