New York, June 7, 2018 -- Sudanese authorities should allow the privately owned Al-Jarida newspaper to be distributed freely and cease its ongoing campaign against critical journalists in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) held up distribution of the paper on the morning of June 6 until 7:00 a.m., preventing physical copies of the paper from being shipped throughout the country and eventually leading the newspaper's staff to cancel distribution, the newspaper said in a post on its Facebook page.
Al-Jarida Editor-in-Chief Ashraf Abdelaziz told independent Sudanese broadcaster Radio Dabanga that an NISS agent came to the newspaper's printing press in Khartoum early in the morning and asked to see five copies of the newspaper. The agent then told one of Al-Jarida's employees present at the press that the newspaper could not be distributed before 7:00 a.m. The NISS agent cited articles about increases in the prices of beans and bread, as well as a recent attack on a market in Sudan's Darfur region, Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune reported.
Abdelaziz added that since the newspaper has to be ready for distribution by 6:00 a.m. at the latest, the newspaper was not distributed at all yesterday, resulting in a loss of 50,000 Sudanese pounds (US$2,770).
The NISS did not immediately respond to an email from CPJ requesting more information.
"Preventing Al-Jarida from being distributed is the latest example of the Sudanese government's war of attrition against the independent press, seemingly designed to starve newspapers until they fold or stop publishing embarrassing news," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. "Sudanese authorities must stop harassing independent newspapers and let them publish and distribute freely."
Abdelaziz was sentenced to a month in prison in March 2018 alongside his colleague Hassan Warrag after both refused to pay a fine over a 2015 column in Al-Jarida alleging corruption in a local land deal, CPJ reported at the time. The Sudanese government previously confiscated newspapers at the beginning of 2018 for reporting on price increases, and CPJ has documented newspaper confiscations as a tried-and-true tactic used by authorities against critical media in Sudan.