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Khartoum newspapers face censorship and intimidation by security forces

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the methods being used by the Sudanese government to censor Khartoum-based newspapers. In the latest case, early on 2 June 2008, members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - the political wing of the former rebel group in the south that is now part of a unity government - participated in a raid on the privately-owned Arabic-language daily "Ajras Al-Huriyya".

"The Sudanese political class is now working in league to control news and information, as if readers were not mature enough to be allowed to know what is going on," the press freedom organisation said. "We repeat that the restoration of censorship is illegal and unacceptable, as well as being ineffective, and we urge the political forces that make up the government not to continue down this retrograde path."

At around 1:30 a.m. (local time) on 2 June, a unit of the Sudanese security forces raided the Khartoum printing press that prints "Ajras Al-Huriyya" and ordered the suppression of an entire page of the 2 June issue. Since it was too late to replace the missing page, the editors decided not to print the newspaper. The security forces also asked "Ajras Al-Huriyya"'s staff to sign a previously-drafted statement undertaking not to published the censored content online or elsewhere.

Such last-minute raids and the signing of previously-drafted undertakings are the new methods being used to prevent newspapers from appearing since censorship was illegally re-introduced on 6 February. The 2 June operation was the second time that the participation of SPLM members in such a raid has been noted since a global North-South peace accord was signed in 2005.

The first time was on 26 May, when a raid was carried out on the privately-owned weekly "Al-Midan" to censor several parts of an editorial and an interview with foreign minister Deng Alor, a senior SPLM official. Alor is a member of the Dinka Ngok ethnic group from the disputed southern oil town of Abyei where there have been deadly clashes between the Sudanese army and the SPLM's military wing since the start of May. "Al-Midan"'s management refused to sign the previously-drafted undertaking during the raid.

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