Sudan: Journalists detained for nearly a week

New York, June 19, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing detention of four Sudanese reporters, now held for nearly a week after attempting to report on deadly clashes between government forces and protestors in the country’s north.

On June 13, Sudanese security forces detained reporters Ghadafi Abdul Muttalib of the daily Al-Ayyam, Abu Obeida Awad of the daily Rai Al-Shaab, Al-Fatih Abdullah of the daily Al-Sudani, and Abul Qassim Farahna of the daily Alwan in the northern Sudanese city of Dongola, according to local journalists and human rights activists. The journalists had gone to cover the clashes that same day in the village of Faraig between Sudanese security forces and demonstrators protesting the government’s planned construction of a dam that they said threatened their community, those sources said. The clashes left four civilians dead and several others injured.

Three human rights lawyers traveling in the same car as the journalists were also detained, according to the London-based rights group, the Sudan Organization against Torture.

Sudanese officials have yet to disclose information about the detentions and have denied a request that the journalists be allowed visitors, Al-Ayyam Editor Mahjoub Mohammed Salah told CPJ. The head of the state-run National Press Council told editors that he received assurances government sources that the journalists would be released on Monday, Salah said, “but these assurances have not been yet implemented.”

On Monday, Sudanese editors and journalists held protests in Khartoum against the detentions and sent a letter to President Omar al-Bashir, calling for the journalists’ release.

“We deplore the incommunicado detention of our colleagues and fear for their safety,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “These journalists were seized for no apparent reason other than they were trying to cover a story that the government would rather have blacked out. Sudanese authorities should release them at once.”