In Sudan, journalist detained; newspapers confiscated

New York, May 8, 2012–The Sudanese security services must immediately release journalist Faisal Mohamed Saleh, who was arrested at his home today after facing two weeks of harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested Saleh, a columnist who contributes to several independent and opposition publications, from his home in Khartoum and took him to an unknown location, according to news reports and Faisal Elbagir, the general coordinator of the group Journalists for Human Rights in Sudan, who spoke to CPJ. The NISS has not disclosed Saleh’s health, condition, or whereabouts and has denied him access to his family or a lawyer, Elbagir said.

Saleh has been a frequent critic of the government’s human rights and press freedom record, according to news reports. On April 25, the NISS summoned Saleh for questioning after he made critical comments in an Al-Jazeera interview in regard to President Omar al-Bashir, according to a letter the journalist wrote that was published by the news website Sudanese Online on Monday. The NISS also warned Saleh to be cautious when speaking to the foreign media, the letter said.

“The Sudanese security forces appear to have targeted Faisal Mohamed Saleh because of his critical journalism,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Authorities should release Saleh immediately and stop harassing him.”

In his letter, Saleh also said that the NISS demanded he come into the office every day for interviews. He said he balked when some of the scheduled interrogations never took place. He was arrested today, news reports said.

In a separate development, the NISS confiscated the entire print run of the independent daily Al-Tayar yesterday, according to news reports. It is unclear why Al-Tayar‘s issues were confiscated, but the newspaper has been targeted in the past, according to CPJ research. In February, the NISS confiscated its entire print run and suspended the daily on charges of “jeopardizing national security.”

On April 24, NISS agents confiscated the entire print run of the pro-opposition weekly Al-Midan, which has also been frequently targeted by the NISS, CPJ research shows. News accounts reported that the paper ran a cover picturing displaced people in Darfur, a subject that has been deemed taboo by the government, according to news reports.

In the past, authorities in Sudan have censored publications in advance by dispatching NISS agents to the newsrooms, but are now resorting to a new strategy in which they confiscate publications after they are printed, thus forcing newspapers to incur heavy financial losses, CPJ research shows.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text of the alert has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of Faisal ElBagir’s name.