May 19, 2016

Sudanese authorities urged to end systematic censorship

Demonstration of journalists in Khartoum March 2016 ASHRAF SHAZLYAF/AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the seizure of five issues of the daily newspaper Al Jareeda in the space of a week. This latest escalation in censorship comes as a committee formed by the justice ministry prepares to discuss a new press law.

After members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) seized Al Jareeda’s issues on 9, 10, 12 and 13 May, the newspaper stopped publishing for two days in protest. When it resumed on 16 May, that day’s issue was also immediately confiscated in what some observers regarded as a punishment for the protest.

The seizures are estimated to have cost Al Jareeda 90,000 Sudanese pounds (6,600 US dollars) in lost income.

The NISS has not felt the need to provide any explanation for the repeated seizures. Al Jareeda had published articles about a recent wave of student demonstrations in connection with which intelligence officers beat two students to death.

In the previous two months, the NISS had already carried out 12 unjustified seizures while 15 journalists were fired at the behest of the authorities. The NISS targets newspapers that criticize the government, mention President Omar al-Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court, or cover the wave of protests.

In late April, the NISS banned all newspaper coverage of events linked to the demonstrations, the opposition and human rights.

“The increase in repressive measures against the press is a reaction to the growing unrest in Sudan,” RSF said. “We urge the authorities to end the arbitrary confiscation of newspapers and to stop harassing journalists, who have an essential role to play in informing the public.”

It is against this backdrop of growing censorship that the justice ministry formed the committee, which includes the NISS, to discuss the proposed press law. The authorities have yet to share the text of the proposed law with those most affected – Sudan’s journalists.

Sudan is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.