Reporters Without Borders wrote on 13 July to Sudanese president, Omar al Bashir, urging him to immediately lift prior censorship of the written press. Here is the text of the letter:
Omar al Bashir, President of the Republic, Khartum, Sudan
Dear Mr President,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation that defends press freedom, forcefully condemns the return of censorship in Sudan. The organisation deplores recent steps taken by your government against several media and the treatment of opposition journalists.
After several early warnings signs of a return to state surveillance of the written press, condemned by our organisation, the intelligence services on 7 July 2010 announced an indefinite ban on the Arabic-language daily al-Intibaha and on two other such dailies, Elhurrah and Akhbar Alyoum, for two days. Six further publications were hit by censorship. All these newspaper are seen by Khartoum as critical of the authorities in south Sudan.
In the run-up to a referendum on independence for south Sudan in January 2011, we believe that your decision is unacceptable in that it is aimed at obstructing freedom of information and the holding of pluralist debates necessary before any democratic poll. The holding of any ballot should always be accompanied by respect for freedom of the media. Before they vote, the Sudanese people should be informed of what is at stake in this referendum for which they need a free press.
The return to prior state censorship of Sudanese media is all the more surprising since you yourself put an end to the practice, following the passing in September 2009 of a law recognising press freedom. We are concerned about the lack of consistency in your promises and the fact that censorship is regularly brought back.
Reporters Without Borders reminds you that the imposition of censorship is not just contrary to the requirements of press freedom since it deprives Sudanese people of opinions different to those promoted by your government, but it is also illegal since the Sudanese Constitution does not allow newspapers to be closed on the basis of an administrative decision but requires a legal ruling.
That is why Reporters Without Borders calls on you to immediately lift prior censorship thus allowing free reign for debate and the circulation of ideas.
Our organisation is also worried by the prolonged detention in very harsh conditions of four journalists on the opposition daily Rai al-Chaab accused of acts of terrorism and espionage. They face the death penalty only for having done their job of informing the public and are not getting a fair trial. We repeat our appeal for them to be released.
I hope that you will give a favourable response to our requests.
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