Khartoum Monitor’s license canceled

New York, June 14, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Sunday’s decision by Sudanese justice officials to cancel the license of Sudan’s English-language daily, The Khartoum Monitor.

Alfred Taban, the paper’s chairman, said he was notified in a letter from the National Press Council, the government agency that regulates the press. Taban told CPJ that a criminal court had suspended the newspaper’s license in July 2003 after it ran articles about slavery in Sudan, but an appeals court later restored the license. Sudan’s Supreme Court endorsed the appellate ruling, and the paper had published normally since March 2004.

But Taban said he was surprised to learn that Sudan’s chief justice appointed a committee to re-examine the newspaper’s license. Sunday’s cancellation notice said the committee decided that the original court ruling was proper; it offered no explanation for the basis of the decision or the procedural grounds that allowed such a committee to rule. Taban told CPJ that he is not aware of any precedent that allows for such a committee to be formed or to overturn a court decision.

The Monitor stopped publishing after receiving notice that its license was revoked, he said. Taban said he plans to appeal directly to the chief justice, and the newspaper will file an appeal with Sudan’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country.

Taban told CPJ that he is uncertain about the motive for the cancellation, but noted that the newspaper published a piece last month about violence at a displaced persons camp outside Khartoum. The story angered authorities because it countered the official version of events, and police confiscated the entire edition of the newspaper. Taban said police filed a complaint against the newspaper after the incident, but he had received no court summonses yet.

“We demand that the newspaper’s license be restored and that its journalists be allowed to work freely without further harassment from the authorities,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.