Sudanese police attack journalist, delete photos

New York, December 17, 2010–Sudanese security officers attacked BBC correspondent James Copnall on Tuesday as he was reporting on a demonstration and ensuing arrests, the journalist reported. Officers also confiscated Copnall’s recording equipment.

Police in Khartoum, who had detained numerous protesters, also deleted photographs from the cameras of several journalists who were waiting in front of a police station for the release of detainees, according to a local journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“We condemn the Sudanese authorities’ attempt to suppress news by harassing reporters and erasing photographs,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the government to prosecute the officers involved and return James Copnall’s equipment immediately.”

The protests were sparked by a YouTube video showing a police officer flogging a woman. The organizers drafted a memorandum addressed to Minister of Justice Mohamed Bushra Dosa calling on him to amend Sudanese laws that discriminate against women, according to the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, a nongovernmental organization devoted to promoting human rights in Sudan.

Copnall, BBC’s Khartoum correspondent, wrote on the BBC website that after he took out his microphone and recording equipment a group of plainclothes men “who were clearly from a branch of the security forces” surrounded him. “One grabbed my arm,” he wrote. “Another gripped the microphone, trying to wrench it from my grasp. ‘I’m a journalist,’ I said. ‘I have a right to record this.’ But a third man, wiry, tough, with a moustache, kicked at my legs. The move was so neatly executed, he might have been a judo champion.”