Reporters Without Borders hailed the initiative of the Justice Minister to limit suspensions of newspapers to 24 hours but called for further reform that could completely abolish such bans.
Justice Minister, Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin, said on 16 March 2004 that he taken steps under Article 130 of the 1991 criminal procedure code to limit suspensions to 24 hours, preventing suspension for unlimited periods of newspapers that were subject of investigations.
Reporters Without Borders hailed this step that aimed to halt repeated and abusive suspensions. But it called on the President and Parliament to follow through this logic by at the very least adopting a presidential decree or a law to definitively ratify the new measures. Better still would be a measure to abolish all suspension of newspapers, the international press freedom organisation stressed.
President Omar Hassan al Beshir proclaimed during the summer of 2003 his commitment to press freedom, saying that press censorship would be lifted. But the round of suspensions of newspapers continued unabated throughout the autumn, in particular on the orders of the prosecutor in charge of crimes against the state.
Among publications censored were Al-Ayam, one of Sudan’s oldest established dailies, suspended for nearly three months before reappearing on 2 March 2004 and the English-language daily Khartoum Monitor, which, with 219 days of suspension in 2003, has the dubious distinction of holding the record. It was only allowed to reappear on 21 March