Sudanese security agents must free Al-Midan workers

New York, February 8, 2011–Sudanese security forces on Wednesday detained 12 employees of the pro-opposition weekly Al-Midan, according to local journalists and news reports. Two were released the same day, but 10 continue to be held incommunicado nearly a week later. The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the welfare of the newspaper employees and calls on Sudanese authorities to release them immediately. 

The arrests followed January 30 anti-government student protests that were covered by reporters for Al-Midan and other pro-opposition newspapers. The February 1 issue of Al-Midan, which included coverage of the demonstrations in Khartoum, was confiscated before distribution, according to news accounts and a CPJ source. The next day, around 7 p.m., agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services surrounded the newspaper’s offices and rounded up employees as they left the premises, those sources said.

A CPJ source identified those detained as Samir Salaheldin, a journalist trainee; Mohamed Rahman, an employee whose duties were not specified; Mawia Abu Hashim, another such employee; Kamal Karrar, deputy editor-in-chief; Ibrahim Merghani, a reporter; Khalid Tawfiq, a graphic designer; Mohaned al-Dirdiri, a journalist trainee; Abdul Azim El-Badawi, an intern; and Suliman Weddah, a manager for Al-Tanweer Publishing, the weekly’s publisher. A driver whose identity was not known is also believed to be held. Authorities have not publicly lodged any charges or disclosed the whereabouts of the detainees.

“Khartoum must release all detained Al-Midan journalists and employees without delay,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “If Sudan wishes to be considered a fully democratic state, it must respect press freedom.”

The United States is initiating a process to remove Sudan from its terrorism blacklist, according to news reports. “Removal of the ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ designation will take place if and when Sudan meets all criteria spelled out in U.S. law,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, while congratulating Sudan on January’s “peaceful and orderly vote” that conveyed independence to the country’s south.