New York, August 22, 2017–Sudanese authorities yesterday fined Suheir Abdelrahim, a columnist for the daily Al-Tayyar, for a column criticizing the police, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the sentence and called on authorities not to contest the journalist’s appeal.
At an earlier hearing, the Khartoum Press Court, which handles complaints against the media, convicted Abdelrahim of insulting the police and violating an article of the Sudanese Penal Code and Press Act, which covers “disseminating false news that spreads chaos or undermines the state’s prestige,” Abdelrahim’s lawyer Nabil Adib told journalists.
At yesterday’s hearing, the press court ordered Abdelrahim to pay a 3,000 Sudanese pound fine (US$450) and Al-Tayyar to pay a 5,000 Sudanese pound fine for the column, which was published in November 2016, according to reports. In the column, Abdelrahim criticized the police for focusing on the theft of shoes from a mosque instead of investigating corruption and theft of public property, according to news reports. Adib said that the columnist plans to appeal.
CPJ attempted to contact Abdelrahim and her lawyer, but was unable to determine contact details for them.
“Sudan should not contest the appeal of Al-Tayyar columnist Suheir Abdelrahim, and should instead focus on amending the laws that led to these fines,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington D.C. “Journalists should be free to report and comment critically on matters of public interest, without fear of harassment or legal action.”
Separately, the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service confiscated all copies of the August 20 issue of the daily Al-Saiha, according to news reports. The security service did not explain the reason for the confiscation, according to the reports. Journalists from the paper were cited in news reports saying that the confiscation order may be related to Al-Saiha’s coverage of tensions between military leaders and President Omar al-Bashir.
The National Intelligence and Security Service did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emails requesting comment.
In 2015, CPJ documented how Sudanese authorities confiscated editions of Al-Tayyar and Al-Saiha, along with 12 other newspapers, without providing an explanation. In recent years, the security service has confiscated entire print runs when a paper publishes content it disapproves of, as a way to censor the news and forces publications to incur significant financial losses.