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Sudan26 May 2004

Journalists harassed for standing up for press freedom

Reporters Without Borders has condemned official harassment, particularly by the security forces, of journalists making a stand for press freedom. It also protested at the arrest of six journalists on the daily Al-Azmina, over a damning report on Sudan’s financial and economical situation.

"The journalists has tried to resist official pressure and to stand up for freedom of information by creating a committee to defend press freedom and by submitting objections to a new press law currently submitted to the parliament by the president of Sudan for ratification," said Reporters Without Borders.

"The security forces reaction is to use absurd measures to try to stifle this resistance movement. At the same time, after preventing the press from reporting on the events in Darfur, the government is now attacking those who dare to publish a report on the country’s disastrous economy" it added.

National security forces arrested Mahgub Mohamed Salih, publisher and editor in chief of the daily Al-Ayam , Zohair Al-Sarrag, columnist with the daily Al-Sahafa, Mahgub Orwa, publisher and editor in chief of the daily Al-Sudani (banned by the security), Mohamed Latif Ali, columnist with Al-Ray Alaam and Ahamed Sir-Alkhatim, journalist on the daily Akbar Al-Youm for several hours on 15 and 16 May. Salih is also chairperson of the press freedom defence committee set up on 4 May 2004. The other arrested journalists were also members of the committee.

The step was taken to prevent them submitting to parliament and President Omar el-Beshir a statement "memorandum" opposing the press law, signed by 210 journalists. While they were in detention six other journalists, members of the committee, managed to put their written objections before parliament and the communications minister. Before releasing the five being held, the security forces banned them from using the name of their committee and ordered it to be banded. Newspaper editors were also prevented from publishing any report in the name of the committee.

Elsewhere, on 23 May, the general manager of the daily Al-Azmina Jamal Anqara, the editor in chief Omar Ismaïl and four of its journalists named Osman Hamid,Haider abdelhafeez,Kamal Awad and Asim Mohieldin were summoned and arrested after the paper carried an article on the collapse of the Sudanese economy. Al-Azmina journalists were interrogated by security forces and detained for more than 30 hours, before being released on bail late on 24 May after questioning by the crimes against the state attorney. They were ordered to report for further investigations by the prosecutor for crimes against the state on 27 May.



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