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Sudan2 October 2003

Newspaper suspended by subversion crimes prosecutor

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the shutting down of the newspaper Al-Azminah and the continued harassment of the independent daily, Alwan, by the state prosecutor in charge of subversion cases.

"We call on the authorities to obey the presidential decree that gives the National Press Council the responsibility for overseeing press matters rather than the subversion prosecutor, who continues to shut down newspapers," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard. "The prosecutor, Mohamed Farid Hassan, is defying the ministry of justice."

Al-Azminah was suspended indefinitely by Hassan on 30 September after a complaint against it by the army. The prosecutor has close ties with the intelligence services, whose authority over the press was ended by a 12 August decree that reaffirmed press freedom and transferred power to monitor the media to the National Press Council. The intelligence services are resisting the order.

The army accused Al-Azminah of publishing an supposedly inaccurate report saying pro-government militias had been disbanded after a 25 September peace agreement with rebels of the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army aiming to end a 20-year civil war.

The agreement provides for withdrawal of government troops from the south within six years and creation of new military units made up of soldiers from both sides. The army is very sensitive about these matters. Prosecutor Hassan said the paper continued to print false news with the aim of undermining the agreement. The paper was suspended under article 130 (paragraphs 1 and 3) of the 1991 code of legal procedure, which allows suspension pending completion of legal investigations.

Alwan was similarly suspended on 2 September pending examination of a complaint against it by the National Security Agency for incitement to sedition. The justice minister gave it permission to reappear on 24 September but two days after it did, prosecutor Hassan banned it again. The daily Al-Sahafa was suspended for three days under the press law from 1 October by the National Press Council for printing an ad by Ethiopian Airlines praising the quality of the wines on its Khartoum-Paris flights. Alcohol has been banned in Sudan since 1983.

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