Sudan judiciary protects press freedom; authorities censor

New York, March 6, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed recent decisions by the Sudanese judiciary supporting press freedom and called on the government to stop confiscating independent newspapers. 

On Wednesday, Sudan’s Constitutional Court reversed an order by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to shut down the independent daily Al-Tayar, according to news reports. Al-Tayar‘s print runs were confiscated several times in 2012, according to CPJ research, until it was suspended in June of that year without explanation, after covering corruption in a government-owned cotton company, according to news reports.

The decision was unanimous by the high court’s seven judges, which Al-Tayar editor Osman Mirghani described as a triumph for the Sudanese press, according to Al-Tareeq news website.

On Monday, the Sudanese Court of Intellectual Property acquitted Khalid Ahmed, reporter for the independent weekly Al-Sudani, of charges of “harming the morale of the armed forces,” on lack of evidence, according to news sources. Ahmed was arrested in June on a complaint by the Sudanese Armed Forces because of an article that described the visit of a top military official to South Kurdofan, where government and rebel forces are in conflict. 

“We are pleased to see the judiciary guaranteeing press freedom by standing up to the censorship efforts of Sudanese security officials,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator.

Separately, Sudanese authorities continued censorship efforts this week by confiscating the editions of at least six privately-owned daily newspapers for coverage including that of Sudan’s dispute with Egypt over the Halayeb border region, according to news sources.

Today, for the third time this week, NISS  agents seized Al-Hurra newspaper from the printing house after it was printed. On Wednesday, NISS also confiscated the English edition of The Citizen independent daily, a journalist from the paper told Al-Tareeq news website. The privately-owned financial newspaper Elaph was also confiscated on Wednesday, according to news reports. Earlier in the week, NISS seized the print run of three independent dailies: Al-Sudani; Akhir Lahza and Al-Ahram al-Youm, from the printing house, according to the reports.

The NISS often employs the tactic of seizing entire print runs of newspapers after they are published, before distribution–costing the newspapers significant funds. 

“These confiscations are not only effective censorship but they are designed to inflict maximum financial pain on publications for crossing government-imposed red lines,” said CPJ’s Mansour.