New York, May 15, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by recent measures taken against the press in Sudan, including the arrest of one journalist and the closure of a newspaper.
Noureddin Madani, editor of the daily Al-Sahafa, told CPJ that Yousef al-Bashir Moussa, the newspaper’s correspondent in the city of Nyala, (about 800 miles southwest of the capital, Khartoum), was arrested on Sunday, May 4, a few days after he reported that the Sudanese president was considering firing the governors of the three states of Darfur, a region in western Sudan.
Darfur has been the scene of recent fighting between government and rebel forces, which have been fighting in a civil war for 20 years. The Sudanese government is wary of journalists reporting on the country’s civil war, which pits the Muslim-dominated government of the north against Christian and animist rebels in the south.
Moussa has not been officially charged but has remained in detention since his arrest.
On May 9, a Khartoum court suspended the English-language daily Khartoum Monitor, Nhial Bol, the paper’s managing editor, told CPJ. Initially, a state prosecutor charged the paper with “inciting hatred” for an article that allegedly misquoted the Koran. The court fined it 1 million Sudanese pounds (about $400).
During the proceedings, Bol said that the judge produced a document saying that the paper had not paid a 15 million pound ($7,000) fine stemming from a January 2002 court decision and ordered the paper closed. But according to Bol, an appeals court had already overturned the January fine.
Bol, who spent that night in prison because he could not pay the 1 million pound fine, returned the next day to the newspaper’s offices to find security agents there who informed him that the Khartoum Monitor could not continue publishing.
Bol told CPJ that he received a letter on Tuesday, May 13, from the National Press Council notifying him that the paper was closed for “misquoting the Holy Koran.”
Bol said he will appeal the ruling.
“Sudanese authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Yousef Al-Bashir Moussa, who has been detained for simply doing his work,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “In addition, the Khartoum Monitor should be allowed to resume publishing without delay.”