Sudan authorities continue to confiscate newspapers

New York, September 15, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the growing censorship of newspapers in Sudan. In the past two weeks alone, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) halted the distribution of four different opposition newspapers without cause.

On September 4, 6, 8, and 11, Sudanese authorities confiscated four print-runs of the Sudanese Communist Party thrice-weekly Al-Midan, local and international news reports said. On Tuesday, the paper was seized again by the NISS, for the fifth time in two weeks. On September 4 and 8, two other opposition newspapers, Al-Jarida and Al-Sahafa, respectively, were confiscated by authorities. On Tuesday, the pro-government paper Akhbar al-Youm was seized, local reports said.

“The repeated confiscation of these newspapers’ entire print-runs is an insidious form of censorship designed to put the publications out of business,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The people of Sudan are entitled to hear alternative voices. The government must respect this right and allow these papers to publish without interference.”

NISS officials informed Al-Jarida that it would continue to be confiscated if it persisted in publishing articles by journalists who had worked for the banned Ajras al-Hurriya, which was suspended in July along with five other South Sudanese-run newspapers that had run critical commentaries on the government, according to local reports.

On Saturday, the National Press and Publications Council also ordered the suspension of another six newspapers covering sports–Habib Al-Balad, Al-Mushahid, Al-Za’eem, Suber, Al-Mureekh, and Aa’lim Al-Noojum–for their alleged “breach of licensing” procedures which included “inciting violence between teams,” according to news reports.

CPJ has reported on previous newspaper confiscations in Sudan, an ongoing repressive tactic employed by the government. In each case, the authorities wait for the newspapers to be printed and then confiscate the copies before they are distributed, thus inflicting maximum financial losses.

Editor’s Note: The original text of this news alert has been modified to correct the identification of Akhbar al-Youm. Akhbar al-Youm is pro-government, and not opposition, as previously described. The description of Al-Midan has been altered to reflect that it is a thrice-weekly, and not biweekly, paper.