Sudanese reporter held for secret reasons

New York, October 5, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that Sudanese security forces have held Abu Obeida Abdallah, a reporter for the pro-government daily Al-Ra’y Al-Aam, incommunicado and without charge since Friday.

“No evidence has been disclosed to suggest Abu Obeida Abdallah has committed a crime,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the Sudanese authorities to release Abdallah at once.”

Isma’il Adam, managing editor of Al-Ra’y Al-Aam, cited a government information agency that claimed that Abdallah was not being held in connection with any published material or any political issue. Information Minister al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik said Abdallah would be released soon, Adam told CPJ.

Abdallah’s family and colleagues have not been allowed to contact him.

Reuters said that sources have reported different reasons for the detention. Kamal Hassan Bakhiet, editor-in-chief of the Khartoum paper, said he believed Abdallah was being questioned as part of an investigation into last month’s murder of Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, editor of the private daily Al-Wifaq. Abdallah may have had telephone contact with someone state security suspected in the slaying, he told the news agency.

But other sources told Reuters that Abdallah’s detention was likely related to Darfur and not the murder investigation. Reuters said Abdallah specialized in covering the armed conflict in the western region of Darfur and had forged contacts with many rebels there.

Press freedom has been heavily curtailed in Sudan in recent weeks. In September, several opposition and independent newspapers were seized or heavily censored, among them Ra’y Al-Shaab, an opposition Arabic-language daily for the Popular National Congress party, and Al-Sudani, an independent Arabic language daily.

On August 30, Khartoum police beat Ibrahim Muhammad, a cameraman for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and seized his camera during a demonstration against the price hikes. On August 26, a court in El-Fasher charged Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, with espionage, illegally disseminating information, and writing “false news.” Salopek was released September 9. Tomo Kriznar, a Slovenian freelance photographer was detained in Darfur on July 19 on spurious charges of espionage. He was released on September 4.