Sudan detains two Eritrean journalists

New York, December 26, 2012–Sudanese authorities have detained without charge since Monday two Eritrean journalists, Abdalal Mahmoud Hiabu and Haroun Adam, from the Sudan-based Eritrean Centre for Media Services, according to local journalists, family, and news reports.

“We are very concerned about the well-being of Abdalal Mahmoud Hiabu and Haroun Adam,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on authorities to immediately disclose their whereabouts, legal status, and condition.”

The journalists’ colleagues and family members told CPJ that the two journalists have not been seen since being summoned Monday to Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Services for an investigation. Nassir Mahmoud Hiabu said he received a call from his brother, Abdalal, who told him that he was inside a police car and that his phone was about to be confiscated. Abdalal’s phone has been turned off since. Nassir has tried to inquire about his brother’s situation, but his whereabouts are unknown.

Jamal Osman Hamad, editor-in-chief of Eritrean Centre for Media Services’ website, told CPJ that both journalists, who contribute news and opinion pieces to the site, are in Sudan seeking asylum. The Centre analyzes Eritrean news coverage, especially news that relates to the Eritrean opposition; translates it into Arabic; and publishes a biweekly online bulletin and a monthly publication targeting the Eritrean diaspora in Sudan.

Eritrea is the most censored country in the world, according to CPJ research, and dozens of Eritrean journalists have fled into exile over the past decade, many of them to Sudan, where they struggle to fulfill basic needs and risk harassment, detention, and deportation.

Hamad was himself arrested by the Sudanese government for three months last year because of his writing on Eritrea. He was held incommunicado for eight weeks, and no charges were ever filed. Hamad’s detention took place less than a week after an official visit to Sudan by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki in October 2011.

On October 17, 2011, over 300 Eritreans were expelled from Sudan to their home country without their cases being referred to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information based in Cairo, Egypt. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2012 country profile on Sudan confirmed that asylum seekers there are at risk of forced return.

  • For more data and analysis on Sudan, visit CPJ’s Sudan page here.