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Sudan: Journalists arrested while covering protests against bread price hikes

A Sudanese man works at a bakery in the capital Khartoum on 5 January 2018. Angry Sudanese queued outside bakeries in Khartoum as bread prices doubled overnight
A Sudanese man works at a bakery in the capital Khartoum on 5 January 2018. Angry Sudanese queued outside bakeries in Khartoum as bread prices doubled overnight

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 19 January 2018.

After the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested 15 journalists, including AFP, Reuters and BBC reporters, as they covered protests against unprecedented bread price hikes this week in Sudan, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the authorities to free those still held and to end all attempts to restrict the freedom to inform.
At least 13 journalists were arrested by the NISS on 16 January while covering demonstrations called by the Communist Party in Khartoum against the price hikes, according to RSF sources. Most were freed the same day after being held for several hours. They included the BBC's Mohamed Mohamed Osman, Al-Arabiya TV's Abdulaziz Ibrahim and the Anadolu news agency's Behram Abdelmunim.

Reuters reporter Khalid Abdel Aziz and AFP reporter Abdel Moneim Abu Idriss were arrested while covering demonstrations held on 17 January in Omdurman, a city just to the northeast of Khartoum, in response to a call from the main opposition party, Umma.

"It is clearly arbitrary to be keeping at least eight journalists in detention and we call for their immediate release," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "The authorities have a duty to guarantee the safety of journalists rather than target them."

Eight journalists are still detained. As well as the Reuters and AFP reporters, those still held include Shawky Abdelazim, the publisher of the independent daily Al-Youm Al-Tali, Imtinan El Radi, a reporter for the same newspaper, and Hayder Ahmed Khair Alla of the daily Al-Jareeda. None of them has so far been formally charged.

Those detained also include Amal Habani, a reporter for the news website Al-Taghyir who was awarded an Amnesty International prize for her human rights work in Sudan. RSF has covered the harassment, including arrests and sentences, to which she was previously subjected in 2011, 2016 and 2017. According to our sources, she was taken to Omdurman women's prison on 17 January without being allowed access to a lawyer.

The Sudanese Journalists Network has called for the release of the detained journalists and has condemned the order issued on 15 January banning newspaper publishers from reporting anything about the protests and wave of arrests.

The issues of the independent daily Al-Jareeda and the Communist Party newspaper Al-Midan were seized on 15 January for covering the price hikes and the protests, as they already were on 7 and 8 January.

A United Nations Human Rights Council resolution in March 2014 emphasized the importance of the role that journalists play in covering protests

Sudan is ranked in the bottom ten of RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index - 174th out of 180 countries.

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