Al-Bashir (AP)
Al-Bashir (AP)

Sudanese editors questioned for ‘insulting’ al-Bashir

New York, March 18, 2010Sudan’s official press regulator, the National Press Council, should drop its investigation of two editors accused of insulting President Omar al-Bashir, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

Yass Omar al-Imam, editor-in-chief of the pro-opposition daily Rai al-Shaab, and Fayez al-Silaik, acting editor-in-chief of the independent daily Ajras al-Hurriya, were questioned Monday by officials with the National Press Council according to news reports. 

Both editors are accused of insulting the president by publishing articles in their Khartoum newspapers suggesting that al-Bashir hand himself over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which indicted him in 2009 for alleged war crimes in Darfur, al-Silaik told CPJ.

“It has become common practice for the authorities to harass any media outlet supporting the ICC indictment of President al-Bashir,” al-Silaik told CPJ. “The government has intensified its crackdown on critical press as the presidential and parliamentary elections are approaching.” Elections are scheduled for April.

“We are dismayed by this latest attempt by the authorities to silence critical journalists and call on the National Press Council to dismiss this spurious investigation at once,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “It is well within the rights of journalists to comment on matters of national importance such as the ICC case against al-Bashir.”

A finding of insult could lead to the temporary closure of the dailies and, in turn, financial losses, al-Silaik said. The National Press Council has sweeping regulatory powers but only nominal independence from the ruling party, CPJ research shows.