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Journalist jailed for reporting on alleged rape

(IPI/IFEX) - 6 July 2011 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the decision of a Sudanese court to sentence a journalist to one month in prison for reporting on the alleged rape of a female opposition activist by members of the country's security forces. Fatimah Ghazali was jailed on Tuesday, 5 July, freelance journalist and human rights advocate Abdelgadir Mohamed Abdelgadir said in a written statement.

Ghazali is reportedly the first of a group of journalists to be tried for publishing articles revealing the brutal treatment of activist Safiya Ishag, who was allegedly tortured and repeatedly raped by members of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) while in their custody in February. The journalist was handed the one-month prison sentence after she refused to pay a fine.

"She was given a choice to pay immediately a fine of 2,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. US$745) or go to prison for a month. She decided to go to prison," Reuters Africa quoted lawyer Hassan Abdullah as saying.

Authorities then moved her to the Omdurman women's prison, according to Abdelgadir.

Ghazali reportedly writes for the Sudanese daily newspaper al-Jarida. Her editor-in-chief, Saad el-Din Ibrahim, has also been given a choice by the court to either pay a fine of 5,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. US$1870) or spend one month in prison, Reuters reported.

Other journalists said to be facing criminal charges because of their reporting on Ishag's case are Faisal Mohamed Saleh, Saadalddin Ibrahim and Amal Habani. Habani has reportedly been dismissed from her job under pressure from the security forces. At least 30 journalists are said to have been arrested in Sudan this year as a result of their profession.

The court's decision came days before South Sudan is due to gain its independence on Saturday, 9 July.
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