Sudan’s military council closes Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Transitional Military Council’s decision to close Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau amid continuing protests in Khartoum against the Council, which has repeatedly obstructed press freedom while governing Sudan since President Omar Al-Bashir’s removal on 11 April.

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) closed Al Jazeera’s bureau yesterday at the behest of the Council, which also ordered the immediate withdrawal of all work permits from the Qatari broadcaster’s journalists and other employees in Sudan without giving any reason for this sudden decision.

RSF has learned that all of Al Jazeera’s equipment has also been seized, forcing it to suspend all activities in Khartoum. The broadcaster nonetheless insisted that it would continue to cover Sudan “despite this political interference by the Sudanese authorities.”

“We unreservedly condemn this disgraceful decision by the Sudanese authorities, who are supposed to be assisting the country’s transition to democracy,” RSF said. “We call on them to reopen the bureau at once and to rehabilitate its journalists so that they can resume their work of informing the public.”

The demonstrators camped outside the defence ministry, the main focus of the protests since Al-Bashir’s ouster, were meanwhile described as a threat to national security by Gen. Bahar Ahmed Bahar, speaking on behalf of the army. The Military Council’s increasingly tougher line at this crucial time has unfortunately been reflected in many restrictions on the media’s ability to cover political developments.

The media regulatory agency, which is now controlled by the Military Council, sent a letter to all media outlets on 15 May prohibiting the publication of any information about corruption.

During a protest by journalists and media workers outside the headquarters of Sudan’s national TV broadcaster last week, security agents arrested six of its journalists and employees. On 29 May, troops raided the Ramtam news agency’s Khartoum headquarters, arresting three journalists and seizing a great deal of equipment and documents.

Sudan is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 31.05.2019