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ANHRI concerned over parliament's approval of draft press law

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) stated on 10 June 2009 that the Sudanese parliament approval for the draft press law, which was widely opposed by Sudanese journalists and Civil Society inside and outside the Sudan, is a severe strike against press freedom in Sudan and is paving the way for more suppression and confiscation.

Despite the amendments made by parliament on some articles that cancelled the imprisonment penalty against journalists, the remaining law articles are shackling and oppressing to journalists. The Press Council's authority to fine newspapers and journalists to a maximum of SL 50,000 (US$21,000) has been cancelled as per the new law, but the same authority has now been given to the judiciary with no maximum limits for fines.

ANHRI said, "Newspaper confiscation was one of the Sudanese executive authority's habits. The new law did not cancel the procedure but transmitted it to the Press Council which, as per the law, is given the authority to confiscate any newspaper for 3 days without judiciary approval." The organisation added, "The 21-member council has 6 members appointed by the Sudanese president and this paves the way for more suppression."

The new law does not provide a mechanism for information handling between formal authorities and journalists. As a result, journalists have to depend on their own sources of information while being in an atmosphere in which information flow is restricted.

ANHRI commented, "It is obvious that the state will never give up practicing strict censorship against the press and freedom of expression. According to the new law, the state has the right to impose restrictions on the press for national security and public discipline considerations."

The new law includes many broadly interpreted articles concerning the decision not to publish any piece of work that may "arise religious or racial sedition or may instigate war or violence". The law also requires that newspapers must "respect and protect public discipline and religious values".

The Sudan, whose domestic crises and conflicts threaten Sudanese security and the country's future, should adopt a press law that coincides with international publishing standards and freedom of expression. This will never be achieved while the government and the parliament are ignoring the opinions of the Sudanese journalists themselves, ANHRI stressed.

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