New York, October 26, 2021 – Sudanese military authorities must immediately release journalist Maher Abugoukh, cease raiding media outlets, investigate pro-military protesters’ attacks on journalists, and ensure that telecommunications function in the wake of yesterday’s military coup in which military chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and dissolved the government, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, military forces arrested Abugoukh, the manager of several news and political programs on Sudan’s state television channels, from his home in Khartoum, and did not disclose his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest, according to a representative with the local press freedom group Sudanese Journalists Network who spoke to CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. Two local journalists familiar with the case, Yuosif Doka and Mohamed Adam Baraka, also confirmed the arrest via messaging app.
Abugoukh has previously criticized the military during live television and radio interviews, including on October 10 on local independent station Hala98, which posted the interview on YouTube.
“Sudanese authorities must release Maher Abugoukh immediately,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour in Washington, D.C. “Sudanese journalists must be free to cover the unfolding coup without fear of reprisal and raids and with unrestricted access to telecommunications services.”
On October 21, pro-military protestors assaulted Ahmed Hamdan, a reporter and the director of news for local independent daily newspaper Al-Dimuqrati, while he was covering their demonstration outside of the parliament according to news reports, and local journalist Adel Color who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Hamdan suffered head injuries for which he received stitches at a local hospital and was released after a few hours, according to Color and those reports.
CPJ was unable to locate contact information for Hamdan; an email to Al-Dimuqrati was not immediately answered.
On the same day, pro-military protestors hit three media workers with the British broadcaster BBC with their hands as they were covering a pro-military demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Khartoum, according to a Facebook post by BBC correspondent Mohamed Osman, and a local journalist who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. The local journalist said the crew, which included a producer, a cameraman, and an assistant, fled the scene and that nobody was injured. CPJ was unable to determine their names.
On October 23, supporters of the former president Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party, which was banned in 2019, stormed the headquarters of local independent news agency Sudan News Agency (SUNA) to stop a press conference there organized by Forces of Freedom and Change, a coalition of civil society groups, according to a statement by SUNA, news reports, and Color.
During the incident, National Congress Party supporters beat SUNA journalist Al-Ahmadi Farah who underwent surgery for a broken hand at a hospital in Khartoum the following day, according to SUNA’s statement and Color. CPJ was unable to locate contact information for Farah.
In a separate incident on the same day, pro-military protestors prevented journalist Marwan Negm el-Din, a correspondent for Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, from covering the protests that took place on the Al Mk Nemer bridge in Khartoum, according to a report in regional news site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and a local journalist who spoke to CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. The protestors grabbed Negm el-Din’s phone while he was filming, according to CPJ’s review of a video sent by the local journalist which documents the incident. CPJ was unable to locate contact information for Negm el-Din and an email to Al-Jazeera was not immediately answered.
On October 24, military forces raided Sudan’s state broadcaster building and cut the television broadcasting signal, according to news reports and a Facebook post by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Yesterday, international digital rights groups NetBlocks and Access Now reported that the internet service as well as several cellular and fixed-line telecommunications services from multiple providers have been disrupted. As of today, no government agency or internet service provider has confirmed these shutdowns, according to the local journalists who spoke with CPJ.
CPJ emailed the Sudanese justice ministry, the general intelligence service, the culture and information ministry, and the military for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Editor’s note: The headline of this piece has been updated to reflect the timeline of incidents