Sudan confiscates, shuts down newspapers again

New York, January 18, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Sudan’s routine use of newspaper closures as a means to censor critical reporting. Over two weeks, the authorities have shut down and confiscated the assets of two daily newspapers. 

“Khartoum has consistently used newspaper confiscations and closures to silence critical voices,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The government must immediately halt this practice of repression and return all confiscated assets.”

The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) shut down the private daily Alwan on Friday, Reuters reported. Editor-in-Chief Hussein Khawjali told the news agency that the NISS called and informed him of its decision to close the paper and seize its assets. The decision came a day after the NISS raided the newspaper’s office and confiscated copies of its January 12 print run, according to local news reports. Authorities did not provide a reason for the closure, but Alwan had published several articles in support of Hassan al-Turabi, the head of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) which publishes the daily Rai al-Shaab, which was shut down two weeks earlier.

On January 2, the NISS called Rai-al-Shaab Editor-in-Chief Al-Tayib Ibrahim Issa to inform him of its decision to shut down the newspaper and seize its property, international media reported.  NISS told Issa to inform his staff to clear all personal belongings, Al-Jazeera said. That action came a day after security forces raided Rai al-Shaab‘s office and confiscated its January 1 print run, Al-Jazeera said.

Authorities did not provide Rai al-Shaab with a reason for the closure, but the head of NISS told the local press that the newspaper was being shut down for its lack of professionalism and “violations” it had committed. Al-Turabi, once the justice minister and foreign minister, is a leading critic of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He has spent several years in prison or under house arrest. Rai al-Shaab, his party’s newspaper, has been a frequent target of censorship, CPJ research shows. It was previously shut down and three of its journalists arrested in May 2010. The paper had resumed publishing for only a few months before the latest closure.

In 2011, authorities carried out at least 19 confiscations of newspaper print runs, CPJ research shows. Despite the frequent actions taken against newspapers, Sudan continues to have a vibrant independent print media.