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Sudan13 May 2003

Government shuts down newspaper

Khartoum Monitor editor Nhial Bol was released on 11 May after paying the fine of 1 million Sudanese pounds (400 euros) imposed on him the previous day by the Khartoum criminal court for allegedly "inciting hate." Bol was jailed on 10 May because of his inability to pay the fine immediately, and was mistreated while in detention. The court imposed an additional fine of 500,000 pounds (200 euros) on Bol’s newspaper, an English-language daily, and ordered it to be shut down for two months. If the fine is not paid, the newspaper will have to remain closed a further two months.

9 May 2003

Reporters Without Borders called on the Sudanese government today to immediately reverse its closure on 8 May of the daily Khartoum Monitor and the seizure of all its equipment. The authorities claimed the paper had failed to pay a fine.

"This closure a big step backward for press freedom, which had increased in Sudan in the past few years," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, who had protested in recent months about heavy fines imposed on the paper for publishing various articles. He also called for the release of journalist Yusef al-Bashir Musa, of the daily paper As Sahafa, who was arrested on 3 May and tortured.

There was no indication how long the police closure of the English-language Khartoum Monitor would last. The paper denies it failed to pay the fine, which it said had been cancelled by an appeals court. Publisher Nhial Bol was also arrested on 6 May and detained 24 hours for questioning about three articles the paper published last month about the problems of Sudan’s Christian community.

Security officials seized copies of the paper at the printers on 9 March because of an article mentioning that the history of Islam in Sudan had not always been peaceful. Bol told Reporters Without Borders at the time that such seizures were aimed at bankrupting the paper.

Musa, local correspondent of As Sahafa in Nyala (in the western town of Darfur), was arrested there on 3 May by security police after the paper printed his reports on clashes in the area.

A doctor who visited him in detention on 6 May said he had been tortured, even though he is already handicapped and only has one leg. He said he had been threatened with rape, beaten up and hit with sticks on the sole of his foot and on his shoulders. He was interrogated about his reports. The press was banned last month from reporting about fighting in the Darfur area in which more than 50 people were killed.

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