Journalists beaten in Sudan after covering protests

New York, December 16, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the detention and beating of several journalists who were attempting to report on clashes this week and last between government forces and protesters in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman. Police detained more than 100 people during the clashes, according to local news reports.

On Monday, police arrested Lucia John Abui, a journalist for the Khartoum-based Al-Shuruq satellite channel, journalist Rashan Oushi from the independent daily Al-Tayar, a three-member crew from the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, and seven journalists from the opposition daily Sawt al-Umma. According to local news reports and human rights activists all the journalists were released within a few hours of their detention.

The journalists had gone to cover clashes in the city of Omdurman between Sudanese security forces and demonstrators demanding changes to the electoral law. According to news reports, the demonstrations were organized by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and other opposition groups.

Three of the journalists from Sawt al-Umma returned to the newspaper’s offices where police detained them along with four colleagues who had not attended the demonstration. They were taken to a police station, and allegedly subjected to beatings, humiliation, and threats. “I asked a police officer what charges we were being held under and all I got for a response was a beating by two officers,” Mohamed Ali Fazari told CPJ. “One of our colleagues was also threatened with rape,” he added. None of the journalists required medical treatment.

Similar protests took place on December 7 in Khartoum and Omdurman, with similar rough treatment of journalists.

“For the second time recently, Sudanese authorities not only violently dispersed journalists but even followed them into their newsroom and arrested them in an attempt to intimidate them,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The media have a right to cover these important political demonstrations.”

On December 7, Police arrested journalists Boutrous Yaaqub amd Qamar Darman from the opposition daily Ajras al-Huriya, Atim Simon from the opposition daily Al-Akhbar, Hanady Othman from daily Al Ra`i al-Aam, Darat Gambo from daily al-Ahdath and two television crews and confiscated all their material. “We were standing outside the police station covering the events,” Hanady Othman told CPJ. “Suddenly the police started beating us all, and they took us inside the station, where they beat us again.”