Two Sudanese editors held overnight; others summoned

New York, February 20, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the overnight detention of two Sudanese editors over articles they published on Sudan’s police force.

The Khartoum state security prosecutor’s office summoned Sid Ahmed Khalifa, editor in chief of the daily Al-Watan, around 10 p.m. on Monday and questioned him about an article he published about changes in the upper echelons of the Sudanese police force, Adil Sid Ahmed, the paper’s deputy editor, told CPJ. Police then transferred Khalifa to holding cells in the criminal investigations office in the city of Khartoum North, Sid Ahmed said, and held him overnight.

Authorities also summoned the editor in chief of the daily Al-Ahdath, Adil al-Baz, for questioning and detained him with Khalifa overnight, Sid Ahmed and a CPJ source confirmed. Both were released Tuesday morning.

“We are troubled by the detention of Sid Ahmed Khalifa and Adil al-Baz,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Such actions are designed to intimidate journalists, and prevent coverage of the security forces, which are a subject of public interest.”

On Tuesday, the state security prosecutor’s office summoned for questioning Editors in Chief Mustafa Abu al-Azayim of the daily Akhir Lahza and Kamal Hassan Bakhiet of Al-Ra’y al-Aam, as well as Managing Editor Mohamed Sid Ahmed of Al-Wifaq, over similar articles about the changes in the police department, Reuters reported.

Authorities also called in for questioning May Ali Adam, an editor for Akhir Lahza, and Hafez al-Kheir, an editor for Al-Ra’y al-Aam, the daily Al-Sudani reported. All of them were released on their own recognizance, according to Sid Ahmed.

Bakhiet said that while his paper did erroneously report that a major general in the police force was resigning, the following day they issued a front-page apology and correction.

Sid Ahmed told CPJ that the state security prosecutor’s office opened a file against the editors under the criminal law and the press prosecutor’s office opened a file against them under the press law. They are accused of false reporting and libel, he said.

Sudanese journalists protested the detention and summons of their colleagues with more than 50 marching to the National Press and Publications Council, Sudan’s official press regulator, in Khartoum on Tuesday to deliver a protest petition, Reuters reported.