New York, August 23, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by the continued violations of press freedom in Sudan. In August, Sudanese security services confiscated two newspapers, and on Monday, local journalists reported that the Sudanese National Assembly was considering introducing more restrictive press and publication laws that would further suffocate freedom of expression.
“The government in Khartoum should scrap plans to tighten already restrictive press freedom laws,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “It should also stop its systematic confiscation of newspaper print runs.”
On Sunday, Sudanese Security Services (NISS) confiscated the daily Al-Jarida for the second time, local news reports said, and did not offer any explanation. Al-Jarida announced today that it plans on suing the NISS for the confiscations, the independent English-language Sudan Tribune reported. On August 8, the NISS had also confiscated another Sudanese daily, Al-Ahdath, without explanation, local news and human rights groups reported. Officials had previously pressured the newspaper’s editor to retract articles about violence in South Sudan, local news reports said.
Newspaper confiscations are an ongoing tactic employed by the authorities. In each case, the security services wait for the newspapers to be printed and then confiscate the copies before they are distributed, thus inflicting maximum financial losses, local and international human rights groups reported.
On July 9, the eve of South Sudan’s independence, the state-run National Council for Press and Publications announced the withdrawal of six licenses for newspapers partly owned by South Sudanese citizens, including the Khartoum Monitor, the Juba Post, the Democrat, the Sudan Tribune, the Advocate, and Ajras al-Hurriya, local news and human rights groups reported. Several of the newspapers had run critical commentaries on the government in Khartoum.
Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party is considering enforcing pre-publication censorship as it did between 1989 and 2009, local and international human rights groups reported. The new act it passed in 2009 already imposes severe limitations on press freedom by enabling strict state control over the press–Article 22, in particular, requires every newspaper to obtain permission for publication from the National Council for Press and Publications and requires that it annually reapply for approval.
CPJ has reported on the incessant targeting of individual journalists and publications through contrived legal proceedings, politicized criminal charges, and confiscations in Sudan. In early June, CPJ documented 10 cases of journalists facing politicized criminal charges with long prison sentences for covering the alleged rape and torture of a youth activist.