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Sudan: Eleven newspapers seized in less than a week

Sudanese men read newspapers on a street in Khartoum, Sudan, 2 January 2008.
Sudanese men read newspapers on a street in Khartoum, Sudan, 2 January 2008.

AP Photos / Abd Raouf

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the oppressive climate the Sudanese authorities are imposing on the media community. While the Constitutional Court's decision on 5 March 2014 lifted the suspension measures taken against Al-Tayar newspaper almost two years ago, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has seized eleven issues of newspapers over the past week.

A NISS source, interrogated by the Sudan Tribune declared that the suspensions and confiscations of newspapers would continue unless journalists respect the NISS' instructions. It added that the newsrooms have been warned not to discuss certain topics.

"This belated court decision does appear somewhat worthless when one considers the general climate of the press in Sudan. The declarations made by the NISS tend to show that gagging measures are likely to continue and perspectives for freedom of information seem bleak," said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of Reporters Without borders Africa Desk.

"The series of confiscations of this past week are sadly only a drop in the ocean of arbitrary measures taken by the NISS against the media in Sudan. This particular harmful strategy of seizing already printed newspapers amounts to a de facto suspension of publications without having to come up with legal motives and while condemning these papers to a slow financial agony. Another side effect of this tactic is the self-censorship editors impose on themselves in order to avoid their papers being confiscated."

Kahn-Sriber added: "The fact that English language newspapers as well as traditionally pro-government papers have been seized lately shows that the Sudanese government is becoming more radical in its censorship. Despite President Omar al-Bashir's call last January to respect human liberties, violations against freedom of the press are continuing. Through these practices, the Sudanese government continues to discredit itself in the eyes of its own population and of the international community. It is about time the Sudanese authorities put an end to the NISS' arbitrary actions and take concrete measures to guarantee freedom of information."

On 8 March 2014, the pro-government newspaper Al Hurra, was confiscated for the fourth time in six days.

On 5 March 2014, the Constitutional Court cancelled the suspension of Al Tayer until further notice; its suspension had been ordered by NISS on 12 June 2012. While the motives for the suspension were never made official, a series of articles concerning corruption cases in the Cottons Group company are likely to have triggered the measure. The very same day, three newspapers were prevented from coming out: the copies of Al Hurra and Elaph – an independent newspaper focusing on economic issues – were seized, while Citizen, an English-language paper was forbidden from printing. Elaph had already been confiscated without official motivation by the NISS on 26 February.

On Tuesday 4 March 2014, NISS had already seized Al Jareed, Akhir Lahza and Al Sudani newspapers, which had already been confiscated earlier on 1st March. The day before, on 3 March, the copies of Al Sudani had been seized as well as that of Al Hurra and Al Ahram Al Youm. The intelligence services also had forbidden the columnist Haidar Kheirallah from writing until further notice.

Several Sudanese media defence groups have denounced these multiple suspensions. Since the beginning of the year, the Sudanese authorities seem to have taken a hardened stance against the media, even targeting media traditionally known to be pro-government. According to these groups, the "red line" issues have multiplied over the past few months, making the journalists' work even more difficult than before. It is impossible namely to talk about the military actions undertaken against dissident groups in Darfur, South Kordofan or the Blue Nile region.

Reporters Without Borders has counted at least 18 confiscations or suspensions of newspapers in Sudan since January 2014.

Sudan has been ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • ANHRI denounces the ongoing confiscation of newspapers by Sudanese authorities

    ANHRI urges Sudanese authorities to put pressure on the security bodies to respect freedom of expression and opinion as well as press freedom.

  • Sudan: The regime continues its security confiscation of newspapers

    The repressive practices of Sudanese security bodies on press freedom completely contradict the Sudanese Minister of Information’s statements that were released last month, when he mentioned that the upcoming period will witness the availability of freedom of the press.

  • Sudan targets independent newspapers

    "The Sudanese government’s repression of independent news media is nothing new, but this latest assault on newspapers suggests an escalation in Khartoum’s effort to hurt newspapers by depriving them of their right to distribute news, thus striking at the heart of their financial survival," said IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi.

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