July 25, 2003, New York—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the July 12 decision by a Khartoum criminal court to cancel the license of the Khartoum Monitor, ceasing publication of the English-language daily.
According to Nhial Bol, editor of the Khartoum Monitor, the court canceled the paper’s license because of an interview it published in 2001 with southern Sudanese leader Santino Deng, who alleged that women and children in Bahr El-Ghazal in southern Sudan were being kidnapped and traded into slavery by Muslim tribesmen. While international human rights groups condemn the practice of slavery in Sudan, the government denies that slavery exists.
Bol said state prosecutors brought the case against the paper in May 2002, accusing him and reporter Willaim Ezekiel, who conducted the interview, of violating the press law and charging them with defamation and spreading false information. Bol said that at the time, he did not consider the case detrimental to the future of the newspaper.
In addition to canceling the newspaper’s license, the court fined each journalist 400,000 Sudanese pounds (US$160). Bol and Exekiel spent a night in prison before the fine was paid on July 13.
The suspension of the paper came one day after the Khartoum Monitor had resumed publishing on July 11, following an earlier court ruling that suspended the paper for two months on May 9.
Bol told CPJ that the paper’s lawyer has submitted an appeal and added that only the National Press Council has the right to cancel the license of a publication.
“We condemn this latest incident, as well as the Sudanese authorities’ repeated harassment of the Khartoum Monitor,” said CPJ senior program coordinator Joel Campagna. “The Khartoum Monitor should be allowed to reopen immediately.”