The year began in Sudan in the same vein as previous ones, with new censorship moves. Although the country has a diverse media and enjoys some freedom of speech, the Khartoum authorities have stepped up efforts to silence publications that irritate them.
Within the past two weeks, two independent and opposition newspapers, Alwan and Rai al-Shaab, have been closed by security forces without explanation.
“These latest two newspaper closures show the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has yet to overcome his chronically repressive instincts aimed at silencing the media,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We fear these examples are merely the start of many and call on the authorities to put an end to this spiral of repression.”
The press freedom organization demands that the two dailies be allowed to resume publication as soon as possible.
On 14 January, police raided the offices of the Arabic-language daily Alwan. Officers closed up the premises and took an inventory of all equipment without giving an explanation. A day earlier, the paper’s editor Hussein Khogli was told by telephone it would be closed down, after copies had been seized over the preceding two days.
The closure order was believed to have been given by Mohamed Atta, the head of the National Intelligence Security Services, and was believed to be linked to the publication of an interview with an Islamist political leader, Lubaba Alfadli. The newspaper was the target of similar suspensions in 2008 and 2009.
On 2 January, it was the Arabic-language Rai al-Shaab, the official newspaper of the opposition Popular National Congress Party led by Hassan al-Turabi, that was the authorities’ target for suspension. Its premises were closed and 15,000 copies of the paper were seized from its printing plant by NISS officials. Its manager, Nagi Dahab, has received no explanation.
The closure could be as a result of the publication of an interview with Gibril Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement concerning the difference in how prisoners were treated by the JEM and by the Sudanese government.
The Sudanese Media Centre, a state-linked website, said the action was taken because the newspaper’s behaviour violated the ethical and professional standards of the journalists’ code of conduct.
The NISS previously closed down Rai al-Shaab in 2010. Its deputy editor Abuzar Ali Al-Amin spent several months in prison, where he suffered ill-treatment. The newspaper resumed publication last October after a court overruled its closure.
Photo : Rai al-Shaab (Ashraz Shazli / AFP)