CPJ is honored to present its 2018 International Press Freedom Award to Sudanese journalist Amal Habbani.
Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani, a freelance journalist and contributor to the Sudanese news outlet Al-Taghyeer, has worked in Sudan since she began her career in 2008. She is the co-founder of the local independent press freedom group Sudanese Journalists Network, based in Khartoum. She has repeatedly been harassed and detained by Sudanese authorities in connection with her coverage of protests and official wrongdoing.
Habbani was arrested in January 2018 while covering anti-inflation protests in Khartoum state and was held for 34 days. She suffered serious injuries in custody after being beaten with electric sticks. Authorities demanded a hefty fine for her release, which she refused to pay, but a crowdfunding campaign raised the funds.
Authorities have sought to silence or intimidate Habbani for years. She was arrested in 2017 in connection with her coverage of a trial of a human rights organization accused of “publishing false reports.” Then, too, she refused to pay the fine and was released after a crowdfunding campaign raised the funds. In 2013, she was detained for days in an undisclosed location after she reported critically on the police response to protests in Khartoum. Earlier that year, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) banned Habbani from traveling for a year. In 2012, the NISS ordered Habbani’s then-employer, Al-Jarida, to ban her and other journalists from writing for the newspaper. In 2011, she was one of 10 journalists prosecuted for reporting on the alleged rape and torture by police of a youth activist.
Sudanese authorities have confiscated newspapers for years, a tool for silencing unfavorable news coverage by pulling critical information from circulation. In November 2017, the Sudanese cabinet approved a draft of an amended version of the Press and Publications Law that would give authorities power to further censor newspapers.
The text of Amal Habbani’s acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below.
I would like to thank CPJ for this important award. It embodies the fight for freedom and human rights for all, regardless of color, gender, economic or material status.
The Khartoum government follows a cruel, ISIS-like system to suppress freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Journalists are arrested, beaten, and threatened with death. The security services control everything and harass newspapers and other media.
In January and February, 15 journalists were arrested because of their coverage of anti-inflation demonstrations in Khartoum. Some of the same journalists were later questioned simply for meeting with EU ambassadors in Khartoum. A Sudanese blogger living in Saudi Arabia, Hisham Ali, was extradited in May and handed to Sudanese security for talking online about corruption in the security services.
These are all daily violations that show the grip of the security services on the press. The latest of these violations is the forcing of editors by the state to sign a press code that mandates self-censorship.
The regime practices these horrific violations against press freedom to conceal its crimes and widespread violations of human rights. It blocks journalists’ ability to transmit information and facts about murder and rape in Darfur and the Nubian mountains, about the vast corruption of government officials, and the complete collapse of basic services like education, health, and the environment.
The security services also ban reporting on violations of religious rights or women’s rights by enforcing public order and social laws. Sudan today is one of the worst countries to live in despite its abundant resources and wealth.
Journalists in Sudan are in the frontline against the regime. They are the primary source of information for society. I hope the world will pay attention to their oppression. Thank you.