Reporters Without Borders today called on President Omar Al Bashir to guarantee there will be no recurrence of a 12-day wave of censorship of Khartoum-based daily newspapers, the end of which was announced by one of his vice-presidents on 18 September.
Announcing the termination of the exceptional measures adopted against a total of seven newspapers between 6 and 18 September, Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha expressed regret for the censorship but offered no assurances that it would not be repeated.
The seven privately-owned, Arabic-language dailies that were affected by the censorship measures were Al-Ayam, Al-Adwoaa, Al-Sudani, Alwan, Al-Sahafa, Ray-Al-Shaab and Al-Wataan. The measures include orders not to print certain articles and confiscation of entire issues.
When police seized all the copies of Al Sudani as they came off the press on 9 September, they claimed this was necessary of the safety of journalists after the 6 September murder of Mohamed Taha, the editor of the privately-owned daily Al Wifaq. A senior security official said that because “the deceased is a journalist” any “emotional” reporting about the case could “hurt the investigation.”
But local journalists said the censored articles dealt not only with Taha’s murder but also developments liable to embarrass the Sudanese authorities, such as the use of force to disperse protests in Khartoum on 30 August and 6 September and the ongoing wrangle between President Bashir and the UN about resolution 1706 on Darfur.
15.09.2006 - Two daily newspaper issues seized in continuing censorship
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the continuing wave of censorship in Sudan after security agents seized all the copies of the latest issues of two privately-owned Arabic-language newspapers, al-Rai al-Shaab and al-Sudani, as they came off the presses yesterday. It was the second time in a week that al-Sudani has been censored.
Journalists told Reuters that the articles that motivated the seizures were about the lack of democracy and the violent dispersal of recent cost-of-living protests in the capital. Al-Sudani is independent while al-Rai al-Shaab supports the opposition.
Minni Arcua Minnawi, a senior government official and leader of a Darfur-based rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), condemned a “big violation” of the new constitution and accused President Al Bashir’s National Congress Party of not respecting a power-sharing agreement.
13.09.06 - Four dailies hit by wave of censorship since 6 September
A wave of government censorship that has affected four Arabic-language daily newspapers - Al-Ayam, Al-Sahafa, Al-Sudani and Rai-al-Shaab - in the past week is without precedent since President Omar Al Bashir announced the lifting of state of emergency laws in July 2005, Reporters Without Borders said today.
“Last year we highlighted a gradual improvement in press freedom in Sudan but arrests and attacks on journalists have been mounting in recent weeks,” the organisation said. “Despite its solemn promises, the Sudanese government is now using the 6 September murder of Mohamed Taha, the editor of the privately-owned daily Al-Wifaq, as a pretext for reinstating censorship for articles of a political nature. The international community, which is very concerned about the situation in Sudan, should also pay attention to the situation of press freedom there.”
Local journalists said the censored articles not only dealt with Taha’s murder but also developments liable to embarrass the Sudanese authorities, such as the use of force to disperse protests in Khartoum on 30 August and 6 September and the ongoing wrangle between President Bashir and the UN about resolution 1706 on Darfur.
On 11 September, security agents ordered Al-Sahafa to remove two articles from its next issue, before it was printed. They were about a meeting of journalists to discuss the Taha case. The newspaper was also ordered to remove an editorial by Hayder Al Mukashfi. The same day, security agents took articles about the recent rioting from Al-Sudani, the newspaper’s deputy editor, Noureddine Medani, told Agence France-Presse. Without going into details, Al-Ayam’s editors also reported that portions of that day’s issue were censored.
Two days before that, on 9 September, the police seized all the copies of Al-Sudani as they came off the press, claiming this was necessary of the safety of journalists after the Taha murder. A senior security official said that, because “the deceased is a journalist,” any “emotional” reporting about the case could “hurt the investigation.” Al-Sudani columnist Osman Merghani told Reuters the authorities “did not specify which articles they did not like, they just said they were all inappropriate.”
The Sudan Organisation Against Torture reported that a team from the National Security Service’s press and media department burst into the opposition newspaper Rai-Al-Shaab on the evening of 6 September and ordered the removal of all reports about the demonstrations that had taken place that day in Khartoum. The newspaper ended up being printed without a front page headline and without any text on page 3. Also, Haj Warag did not write his daily column in protest.
President Bashir undertook to promote democratisation, the rule of law and freedoms on 11 July 2005, when he announced the repeal of emergency laws in the presence of UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, several African presidents, and many senior European and US officials.