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Journalist sentenced for covering assault case

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 26 July 2011 - ANHRI condemned the 25 July 2011 sentencing of journalist Amal Habbani by the Publishing Crimes Court, headed by Judge Mudathir Al-Rashid. The journalist was sentenced to a fine of 2,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. US$660). Habbani refused to pay the fine and opted for a one-month prison sentence instead.

In June, the same court fined journalist Fatima Ghazali. She also chose not to pay the fine and was imprisoned in accordance with Article 166 of the Criminal Code, relating to "publishing false news".

The case again Habbani is related to her coverage of Safia, a political activist and artist who was assaulted and raped by security officials in February. ANHRI notes that seven other journalists also reported on the same case, calling for an investigation. The Security and Intelligence Department denied any wrongdoing and instead accused the media of defaming the security apparatus' reputation and spreading false news. It is expected that sentences will be issued against each of the journalists who covered the incident.

Safia had posted a video on a number of social networking sites in which she spoke of her rape in February by Sudanese Security Forces, after participating in a protest in January.

"The ongoing policy of imposing extortionate fines on journalists, imprisoning them, and constraining media freedom is becoming systematic. The Sudanese authorities should have thoroughly investigated what happened to the political activist instead of penalizing those who perform their role by publishing the truth," ANHRI said.

"Media freedom in Sudan is declining. Authorities are being openly hostile to journalists. International and regional organizations and all those concerned with freedom of expression must pressure the Sudanese authorities to guarantee media freedom and release all prisoners of opinion from Sudanese prisons," ANHRI added.

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