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Hunger strike held to protest proof censorship; journalist arrested for publishing censored material

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a statement on 5 November 2008 that journalists in Sudan have organized a sit-in and went on a hunger strike from the morning of 4 November until ten o'clock (local time) on 5 November in protest against the censorship of press proofs imposed by intelligence officers in charge of checking newspapers and excluding topics banned by the government.

"Ajras Al Hurriya" newspaper has been off the presses since 1 November and announced the hunger strike and a sit-in at its premises. A number of Sudanese newspapers, including "Ra'y Alshaab" newspaper have also announced their suspension for three days as of 8 November in solidarity with "Ajras Al Hurriya"'s protest against proof censorship carried out by intelligence forces. Columnists have also decided to withdraw their columns in protest against the repressive mechanisms imposed on the press by the intelligence forces.

In the same context, ANHRI condemns the arbitrary arrest of journalist Salah Bab Allah of the Khartoum-based "Al Entibaha" newspaper. Bab Allah has been in custody since his arrest at the newspaper's premises by security and intelligence forces on 1 November. Security officials have not allowed his wife to visit him. The basis for the arrest was his publication of news about an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in the El Fula area in Kordofan region, western Sudan. Proof censorship had previously concealed this news which was on the third page, but the journalist published it on the front page. Security forces refused to disclose his whereabouts or say what charges have been brought against him. Instead, they claimed that the arrest is for "inquiring about news." Accordingly, ANHRI demands the immediate release of the detained journalist and the cessation of arrests of journalists because of their profession.

Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, said: "We add our voice to the voices of the Sudanese journalists in their collective protest against proof censorship, and we demand the Sudanese Journalists Union take up its role in defense of freedom of the press and the protection of journalists. At the same time we urge the Sudanese government to respect press freedoms and end the arbitrary arrests of journalists in deliberate violation of international covenants and conventions that provide for these freedoms."

Updates the "Ajras Al Hurriya" case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97958/

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