New York, August 9, 2010—The Sudanese government has announced it is suspending the BBC’s license to broadcast in Arabic on local FM frequencies in four northern cities, including the capital, Khartoum. Security personnel also informed editors in recent days that journalists who had not completed an extensive government questionnaire would be detained, journalists told CPJ.
The Ministry of
on Sunday that the government "is stopping the
BBC's FM service operating in Khartoum, Port Sudan, Medani, and
el-Obeid, and is suspending the agreement between the BBC and the National
Broadcasting Authority effective August 9," the Sudan News Agency reported.
Authorities claimed the decision to suspend BBC radio broadcasts is "not
at all connected” to the BBC’s coverage. They said the BBC had brought
satellite equipment into the country through diplomatic channels in violation
of an agreement signed in 1999. They also claimed that the BBC has been working
in Southern Sudan without permission from the
central government, according to the statement.
said on its website that it hopes that “ongoing discussions with the
authorities in Khartoum
will get it back on air.” Jihad Ali Ballout, communications manager for BBC
Arabic in London, told CPJ that the
broadcaster’s priority is its weekly audience of 4 million listeners in Sudan, and that
it “hopes to find ways to reconnect with them.”
security services distributed a questionnaire to journalists in July consisting
of 26 detailed questions about political viewpoints, friends, addresses, bank
accounts, and floor plans of journalists’ residences. Critical publications
were told to return the completed forms no later than August 5, local
journalists told CPJ.
Sahal Adam of the Arabic-language
daily Ajras al-Huriya told CPJ he refused to submit the detailed information. "The aim here is
twofold,” he said. “One, to collect information useful when a need to arrest a
critical journalist arises, but also to intimidate us." Agents told his
editor that Adam would be arrested if he didn’t cooperate, the journalist said.
Other journalists from Ajras
al-Huriya refused to submit the questionnaire, including Zahel at-Tib,
Qamer Dulman, Fatima Jaqed, and Hanadi As-Sadiq. However, they were summoned to
the security offices and after several hours of interrogation and threats they provided
the information, at-Tib told CPJ.
"Sudan has shown itself to be intolerant of any
international attention, and this ban on BBC Arabic is merely the latest
example,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ Middle East and North
Africa program coordinator. “We are also gravely disturbed by this
questionnaire for journalists, especially the demand for a floor plan of their
homes. We can see no reason why the government would want this information and
the transparent aim is to intimidate journalists, who could face arrest.”
On Saturday, Mohamed Atta,
director of the National Intelligence and Security Services, announced a decision
to lift all censorship in Sudan.
Until now, security agents have directly censored critical papers’ stories
daily. However, in a statement published by the state-run Sudan Media
Center, Atta warned that the
agency "reserves its constitutional right" to reinstate "full or
partial censorship whenever the necessity arises." The government has made
similar pronouncements that they would lift censorship in the past.