Newspaper closed, others suspended or seized, journalists physically attacked
"When the president talked of freeing all the imprisoned journalists a month ago, was that just a political sham aimed at fooling the international community?" Reporters Without Borders asked. "We had hoped his statement would pave the way for more respect for media freedom but nothing could be further from the truth. The security forces are doing everything from police harassment to outright seizure of newspapers to gag the media. Censorship is back in big way."
The National Intelligence and Security Services closed the independent Arabic-language daily Al-Jarida on 27 September, citing an order from authorities and without giving any further reason. The newspaper had already been prevented from publishing for several days last month (20-22 August) and copies were seized on 4 September.
The National Press Council, which regulates the print media, ordered the suspension of six sports newspapers – Habib Al-Balad, Al-Moshahid, Al-Zaeem, Supper, Al-Mireekh and Aalum Alnigoom – on 10 September for an indefinite period for alleged unprofessionalism and administrative errors. The council accused them of writing negative articles and publishing false information "damaging the country's security and reputation."
Four of the six – Habib Al-Balad, Al-Moshahid, Al-Zaeem and Aalum Alnigoom – have appealed against the suspension, which violates a provision of the Press Act limiting the duration of a suspension by the council to a maximum of three days.
Al-Midan, a tri-weekly published by the Communist Party of Sudan, is often harassed by the security forces. In repeated acts of censorship, copies of three of its issues were seized in September (on 4, 6 and 8 September), while the Arabic-language daily Al-Sahafa was prevented from publishing on 8 September.
Journalists banned from covering sensitive subjects
Al-Jazeera reporter Osama Said Ahmed was physically attacked by members of the security forces on 7 September while covering clashes in Al-Damazeen, the capital of Blue Nile state. A woman reporter, Tagwa Ahmed, was also roughed up by the security forces while covering the events from a military hospital.
A few days later, National Assembly spokesman Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Tahir accused opposition parties and newspapers of maintaining links with the armed wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N). The authorities have banned the media from publishing anything about the SPLM-N and have imposed a news blackout on the situation in both Blue Nile state and South Kordofan.
As previously reported, the National Press Council announced on 8 July, the eve of South Sudan's independence, that it was withdrawing the licences of six newspapers published in the north on the grounds that were partially owned by South Sudan citizens.
In a statement exactly a month ago, President Omar al-Bashir announced the release of all imprisoned journalists. A journalist was freed the next day. It was Al-Sahafa reporter Gafar Alsabki Ibrahim, who had been held since 3 November 2010.
But Abdelrahman Adam, a Radio Dabanga journalist detained since 30 October 2010, has not been freed. Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for his immediate release.