Ameriques Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Sudan 21 May 2007

Publisher and editor of al-Sudani released but daily still banned

Reporters Without Borders today called for the lifting of a ban on the Arabic-language daily al-Sudani, under a highly controversial article of criminal code procedure, over an editorial accusing the justice minister of “lying in a money-laundering case”.

The worldwide press freedom organisation however welcomed the release of the publisher and editor of the privately-owned paper, Mahgub Erwa and Osman Mirghani, who had been imprisoned on 17 May 2007 and were respectively released on 19 and 20 May.

“This case typifies one of the most glaring obstacles to press freedom in Sudan,” the organisation said. “The banning of al-Sudani is unwarranted in that it was decided unilaterally by the government, while there is a press regulation body whose authority was by-passed.”

“Yet again the government based its decision on Article 130 of the criminal code procedure when the entire profession and the National Press Council have all challenged its validity.”

Mahgoub Erwa was freed on 19 May, 24 hours before the end of his preventive detention period. Osman Mirghani, was released on 20 May on the orders of a court which refused to extend his detention, as requested by the public ministry. A journalist on the paper, Hafiz Al-Khair, was questioned about the case on 17 and 19 May.

The misuse of Article 130, which punishes any breach of the confidentiality of investigations, is one of the authorities’ favourite weapons. Since the start of 2007, al-Sudani has fallen victim to this ambiguous piece of legislation which is supposed to prevent “influence being brought to bear on an on-going investigation”. The justice ministry on 1st February banned the paper “indefinitely” for referring to the 2006 murder of the editor of the daily al-Wifaq, Mohammed Taha, in defiance of a government imposed blackout on the case on the pretext of “preserving public order”. Protests from professional organisations - and from the National Press Council, close to the government, which questioned the legality of the decision - resulted in a climb-down by the authorities 48 hours later.

18.05.2007 - Independent daily closed down, two journalists arrested

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the closure of the independent Arabic-language daily Al-Sudani on 16 May as a result of a complaint by the justice minister about an article accusing him of lying.

“Closing a newspaper is a violation of democratic freedoms,” the press freedom organisation said. “President Omar Al-Bashir solemnly undertook to support democratisation in Sudan in a speech to several African presidents, the UN secretary-general, and US and European officials in July 2005. The authorities should respect that undertaking and guarantee press freedom in Sudan.”

Officials went to the premises of Al-Sudani on 16 May, confiscated the plates of the next day’s issue as it was about to be printed, and handed over a letter from the prosecutor’s office ordering the newspaper’s closure because of a column by Osman Mirghani in that day’s issue accusing justice minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardhi of “lying about a money-laundering case” before the courts.

Al-Sudani will remain closed until the courts reach their verdict on the minister’s libel complaint. Mirghani and editor Mahgoub Orwa have been arrested under three-day, renewable detention orders.

In this country
21 May - Sudan
Call for amendments to harsh new press law
2 March - Sudan
Detained journalist put on a flight to London
11 February - Sudan
“They asked me why I was asking about arms. Then they said they wanted me to leave the country”: the story of a Canadian-egyptian journalist expelled by the authorities
25 November - Sudan
For the good of the country, stop censoring
14 October - Sudan
South Sudan newspaper editor released

in the annual report
Sudan - Annual Report 2008
Sudan - Annual Report
Sudan - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists