IN DECEMBER, STRONGMAN OMAR HASSAN AL-BASHIR WON overwhelmingly in presidential elections that were boycotted by Sudan’s two main opposition parties. Both parties had conditioned their participation on an end to the 17-year civil war and to human-rights abuses, including restrictions on the press.
State harassment of journalists and newspapers has been a persistent feature of al-Bashir’s 11-year rule. In recent years, however, some local journalists have taken a more critical approach to sensitive topics such as corruption and the civil war. Nevertheless, the press remains vulnerable to the arbitrary methods of the country’s notorious security services.
In March, security agents detained five journalists and a poet from the daily Al-Sahafa for allegedly “writing and publishing articles and poems that were against the government and supported the Sudanese opposition.” The six men were held for five hours and then released; their detention was thought to have stemmed from articles by Sudanese rebels that had appeared in the paper.
In July, military intelligence operatives detained correspondent Mohammed El Fatih Sidahmed, of the United Arab Emirates newspaper Al-Ittihad, for several hours. The journalist was taken to a military facility and questioned about an article he had written on the difficult living conditions of Sudanese military officers.
Kamal Hassan Bakhit, Al-Sahafa
Sidahmed Hardalo, Al-Sahafa
Ahmed Umerabi, Al-Sahafa
Abdel Qader Hafez, Al-Sahafa
Ahead Irani, Al-Sahafa
Anwar al-Takina, Al-Sahafa
Over two days beginning on March 22, Sudanese security agents arrested five journalists and a poet working with the daily Al-Sahafa: editor Bakhit, deputy editors Irani and Hamed, news director Hafez, political news director al-Takina, and Hardalo, the staff poet. They were arrested for “writing and publishing articles and poems that were against the government and supported the Sudanese opposition.”
In particular, the arrests seemed to come in retaliation for a series of articles written by Sudanese rebels battling the Khartoum government. Hardalo, meanwhile, had published a poem in the paper which praised neighboring Egypt and lamented Sudan’s deteriorating political situation.
The journalists were held for a few hours, but not questioned, and were then released.
Muhammed El Fatih Sidahmed, Al-Ittihad
Army intelligence agents detained Sidahmed, Khartoum bureau chief for the UAE-based newspaper Al-Ittihad, at his home and took him to a military office for questioning about an article that he had published in the July 9 edition of Al-Ittihad. The article discussed the difficult living conditions of Sudanese military officers.
The agents accused Sidahmed of harming the army’s reputation. He was released a few hours later.