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Sudan16 January 2004

Mahjoub Mohamed Salih released

Editor in chief of the independent daily newspaper Al-Ayam, Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, was released on 15 January on bail of 200 million Sudanese pounds (about 60,000 euros) raised by "friends of the newspaper" and businessmen, who also promised to settle the newspaper’s tax arrears. Al-Ayam remains suspended.


Reporters Without Borders calls for release of newspaper editor jailed for tax arrears

Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of Al-Ayam editor in chief, Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, imprisoned because of his newspaper’s unpaid tax arrears of 90 million Sudanese pounds (around 28,000 euros).

Economic security agents on 14 January went to the offices of the daily newspaper, suspended since 3 December 2003, and demanded immediate payment of tax arrears. Since he was unable to pay Salih was imprisoned.

"While newspapers should pay their taxes, we condemn the methods of Economic Security, imprisoning the editor in chief of Al-Ayam, an independent newspaper which has had no regular income for months, because it has been the victim of constant suspensions," said Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders. "We call on the authorities to immediately release Salih, to demonstrate more flexibility in recovering tax arrears, and finally to allow the reappearance of this daily newspaper, which is one of the pillars of the Sudanese press," he said.

Security forces suspended Al-Ayam on 16 November 2003. It was then allowed to reappear on 22 November only to be indefinitely suspended again on 3 December. The daily was accused of "threatening the country’s security and stability". On each occasion the newspaper was suspended at dawn, after it had already been printed, entailing considerable financial losses.

Earlier this week, the editor had been negotiating with the economic services of the finance ministry to be allowed to pay off the tax bill in instalments. The ministry had agreed to reduce the amount of arrears owing by half and a meeting had been fixed for 17 January to establish a payment timetable to give a chance of financial survival to the daily newspaper, which has just marked its 50th anniversary.

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