Amnesty International today condemned the confiscation of the 28
June edition and parts of the 29 June edition of the Sudanese
independent daily Al-Sahafa by the country's security forces.
"The Sudanese government and the National Security Agency must put
an end to the confiscation or suspension of local newspapers. The
intimidation and harassment of journalists with the attempt of
restricting the freedom of the press must end," Amnesty
On the night of 27 June, members of the security forces seized
around 20,000 copies of Al-Sahafa. The move came in response to an
opinion piece published a few days earlier at the occasion of the
anniversary of the 30 June 1989 coup d'Etat in which the current
government seized power.
Journalist Salah El Din Awooda who wrote the opinion piece was
summoned by security forces and warned not to criticise the
government. A couple of days later, security forces ordered
Al-Sahafa to remove a page containing three articles from their
Sunday edition. After the wrong page was removed, security forces
seized nearly 16,000 copies of parts of the paper. The articles
deemed critical of the government by security forces were written by
Al Haj Warraq, one of the managers of the paper, Adil El Baz, its
Chief Editor and one of the daughters of Ummah party leader Sadiq El
Newspapers' editors in Sudan frequently complain that members of the
security forces waits until printing is completed to seize copies in
order to impose an extra financial burden on the paper. The
authorities also seized copies of Al Sahafa on 6 May which published
a statement by the Foreign Affairs Minister on external interference
in Darfur which he later withdrew.
"The government's harassment of the Sudanese press undermines human
rights. The smothering of freedom of expression will not help to
bring a sustainable peace in Sudan," Amnesty International said.
Despite censorship being officially abolished in December 2001, the
Sudanese security forces have since confiscated or ordered the
closure of several publications while arresting many journalists.
On 3 May Yusuf al-Beshir Musa, aged 35, correspondent of Al-Sahafa
in Nyala, South Darfur, was arrested by security forces for writing
an article about the destruction of Sudan air force planes and
helicopters in El Fasher airport by the Sudan Liberation Army (an
armed opposition group created in Darfur in February 2003 by members
of sedentary groups to protest the lack of protection and the
underdevelopment of the region).
Musa, who has an amputated leg, was held incommunicado for three
days at the security forces' offices in Nyala and was reportedly
beaten with sticks on his body and the sole of his foot. On 6 May he
was allowed to see a doctor, whose diagnosis described the marks of
beatings on his buttocks and chest. He was detained in Nyala General
Prison charged with "spreading false information against the state"
and served with a six-month detention order under Article 26 of the
1998 Emergency Act. On 24 May, he was released. His family was not
allowed to visit him during his detention. A complaint about his
reported torture was lodged at the office of the Sudan
"Torture and imprisonment of journalists, suspension and
confiscation of newspapers for fulfilling their duty to report
important events, or to freely express their opinions is utterly
unacceptable," Amnesty International said.
The organization also called for all restrictions and "red lines"
limiting freedom of expression and for the suspension of some
newspapers to be lifted immediately.
Other recent attempts by the Sudanese authorities to clampdown on
the press include:
Faisal al-Bagir, correspondent of Reporters Without Borders in
Sudan, was arrested and interrogated for two hours by the security
forces on 8 June. He was asked about his journalistic and human
rights activities and political opinions upon his return from a
workshop in Greece about the future of the media in Iraq.
Nhial Bol, the managing editor of the Khartoum Monitor, was detained
by the police after a complaint by the Ministry of Awqaf
(Endowments) on 6 May against it for publishing three articles said
to be insulting to Islam. According to the Khartoum Monitor, the
articles were about the destruction of a church, an article by the
Chairman of the Christian Democratic Party entitled "Is Islam afraid
of Christianity?" calling for coexistence, and an article about
merissa, a traditional beer, which stated that Islam allowed such
drinks. Nhial Bol was released the following day. He complained that
he had been forced to stand facing the wall for five hours.
On 8 May security forces stormed the Khartoum Monitor newspaper and
shut it down. Its assets were seized because of its failure to pay a
fine of 15 million Sudanese pounds ($6,000) for an article alleging
slavery was practised in Sudan. Sudan's Criminal Court in Khartoum
North, hearing the complaint brought by the Ministry of Awqaf, found
the Khartoum Monitor guilty of "propagating slavery", "abusing
Islam" by misinterpreting the Qur'an, and "endangering Sudanese
unity" on 10 May . The Court imposed a two-month suspension and a
fine of LS500,000 ($200) on the newspaper and a fine of LS1 million
($400) or a four-month prison sentence on Nhial Bol. Nhial Bol was
taken to Dabak Prison in Khartoum North and given forced labour but
was released the following day when his personal fine was paid. The
Khartoum Monitor remains closed.