Sudan’s belligerents are targeting journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the deliberate targeting of journalists by both of the two rival military factions that have been fighting in Sudan for more than three months. Protecting media personnel must become a priority for the parties to this conflict, RSF says.
Journalists have been deliberately subjected to physical attacks and arbitrary arrests. Their equipment has been confiscated. There have even been air strikes on convoys of identifiable journalists.
The abusive treatment has been taking place ever since the two factions – the Sudan Armed Forces commanded by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, aka “Hemetti” – began fighting on 15 April. But the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate (SJS), which has been documenting the abuses, say they have intensified since June.
Neither of the warring factions is sparing journalists, media outlets or their premises. The buildings of the General Authority for Radio and Television in Omdurman, Sudan’s second most populous city, have been the theatre of fighting between the two factions since the start of the war.
Reporting in the field has become extremely risky. While interviewing people blocked at the Argeen border crossing with Egypt in June, TV reporter Khalida al-Laqani and her cameraman were detained and questioned by an army intelligence unit for four hours. Freelance reporter Ali Jouda was also detained and beaten for two hours by members of an army intelligence unit in early June.
Both of these incidents were reported by the SJS, whose members have proved to be particularly exposed. After Faisal Mohamed Salih and Zuhair al-Sarraj, two freelance journalists who are SJS members, appealed to the belligerents to stop fighting, their photos were posted on the streets of the capital, Khartoum, accompanied by calls for them to be killed.
Abuses have also been reported in the south of the country in recent weeks. Freelance journalist Salah Damba was attacked in the Al-Jabalain region in mid-June by forces who could not be identified due to the confusion surrounding the conflict. And his passport was confiscated.
In Darfur, where fighting is intensifying between the various armed factions, the rights of civilians are being subjected to large-scale violations and the situation of journalists is particularly uncertain. By it is hard to obtain information from Darfur as all means of communication having been interrupted.
“In the appalling situation in which the Sudanese population finds itself, the hostage of a war between generals, the voice of journalists is of the utmost importance. More than ever, we must defend their right and their duty to bear witness to this serious and dangerous phase in their country’s history. Instead of attacking them and trying to silence them, the parties to the conflict should make protecting local journalists and foreign correspondents their top priority.
Because they are being threatened and prevented from working, many journalists have had to leave the country, or at least the region where they are normally based. RSF’s Assistance Desk has already helped some 40 journalists to travel to Egypt as a safety measure, but some have been blocked in border areas. They include Mawahib Ibrahim, a member of the SJS executive bureau, who has been refused visas for Saudi Arabia and Egypt without any justification.