Reporters Without Borders called on the Sudanese government today to lift its almost three-month censorship of the privately-owned press in Khartoum which has intensified in recent days with the seizure of six daily newspapers.
These are the most serious press freedom violations since the 2005 peace agreement that was supposed to end emergency laws, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. Secret police surveillance of newspaper staff is outrageous and illegal
and the national unity government must put a stop to it. The media, one of the better aspects of modern Sudan, is being punished without reason and in violation of the national constitution.
The National Security Service (NSS) domestic intelligence agency phoned the editors of 10 daily papers on 13 April and ordered them to henceforth submit all their content for prior approval under the censorship illegally reestablished on 6 February. But
the papers all refused to comply and printed their editions in the normal way. The police then went to the printers and seized copies of Ajras al-Huriyya, Rai al-Shaab and Al-Ayyam on 15 April.
The editions of Al-Sudani, al-Ahdath, Ajras al-Huriyya, Rai al-Shaab and the English-language daily The Citizen were seized the next day after several tens of thousands of copies had been printed. The four Arab-language dailies had been warned not to
report the press conference held the day before by the editors of Ajras al-Huriyya criticising the new censorship, a local journalist told Reporters Without Borders.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed an agreement by Sudanese authorities to end censorship after journalist union leaders brought together a group of newspaper editors in a concerted effort to strengthen ethical journalism
and media independence in the country.
The Sudanese Journalists' Union (SJU) held a meeting on Wednesday with 27 newspapers editors and officers from the security services responsible for media and agreed to end all censorship and stop the practice of sending newspaper stories to the censor
The newspapers also agreed to adhere to the media code of conduct and to further discussions on how to protect press freedom and responsible journalism.
22nd May 2008
Sudanese security forces have closed a newspaper indefinitely for publishing sensitive military information that might be linked to a rebel attack on Khartoum.
The Arabic-language Al-Wan paper has Islamist links.
The paper's managing editor, al-Tayyib Farraj, told Reuters a force from state security came to the paper on Wednesday evening: They had a decree to close the paper and confiscate all its possessions.
He did not know which article had caused problems but believed the closure could be related to an article on a missing fighter jet which had been published after the attack.
Farraj complained that the closure was unfair because censors had read the paper before it was published. Strict censorship laws were reintroduced several months ago: For months we have daily censorship and our paper doesn't go to the printing press
without them reading it first. Any objections should have been voiced then.
One of Sudan's leading independent papers suspended work on Thursday, saying censorship by authorities had made it impossible to function.
Ajras al-Huriya, or the Bells of Freedom, said it had not been able to publish for two days this week after Sudanese security arrived and ordered the removal of up to nine articles and columns minutes before the paper went to the printing press.
They, the security elements, are replacing the role of the editor-in-chief, said deputy chief editor, Fayez el-Sheikh el-Silaik: We want to send a very strong message to the international community and the political forces that we are in a very
dangerous situation -- freedom is in danger now. We cannot even write about the fact that there is censorship .
Update: Bells Resume
25th June 2008
One of Sudan's leading independent newspapers resumed publication on Tuesday after halting its presses in protest at government censorship of the media.
Ajras al-Huriya, or the Bells of Freedom, which stopped printing on Thursday, said it had been particularly targeted by the authorities who had removed up to nine articles just before the paper went to press last week.
Today we have resumed publishing after talks with political parties and civil society organisations, said editor Abdel Moneim Suleiman.
Ajras al-Huriya said they were not allowed to print stories about Darfur, Chad, the censorship itself or anything critical of the ruling National Congress Party.
Sudan's security apparatus has seized copies of a local English-language newspaper, the latest episode in months of threats and seizures, its chief editor said.
William Ezekiel said copies of the Sudan Tribune were confiscated for the 17th time this month and that he had been summoned by national security forces: They want to punish us financially in order for the newspaper to die out, which is the worst
He said the National Press Council sent a "final" written warning to the newspaper specifying that failure to comply with conditions would see the newspaper closed on September 1.
Ezekiel said the Press Council wants him, as chief editor, to be based in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, not Juba, in the semi-autonomous south. Ezekiel's newspaper opened an office in Juba earlier this year.
He also said the council wants the newspaper to replace its editorial board and submit a new list of names for approval, and that all those writing for the paper must have a graduate degree.
Update: Defying Censorship
8th September 2008
A south Sudanese newspaper editor said he would defy a suspension of his publishing licence by getting his daily printed outside the country.
Nhial Bol said he would import his paper, The Citizen, and distribute it himself in south Sudan, in a direct challenge to Khartoum's historic hold over the country's publishing industry.
Sudan's Khartoum-based media regulator, the National Press Council, suspended The Citizen's licence last week, effectively shutting it down until further notice.
A local newspaper editor said he was being held by southern Sudanese authorities for publishing an article critical of corruption in the semi-autonomous, post-conflict region.
Nhial Bol, editor of The Citizen , said police arrested him on Friday for a story printed October 7, which lay corruption accusations against the ministry of legal affairs and constitutional development in southern Sudan.
This should be a civil case, but I have been told I will be held for three days without bail, Bol told AFP.
Sudan has tightened restrictions on local media in recent months, demanding that newspapers based in the south move their head offices to Khartoum.
Newspaper censorship is practiced daily. In Khartoum, the powerful security apparatus inspects newspaper editions nightly, while editors who refuse to remove articles deemed offensive risk a ban on their publications.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns outright the removal of seven proofs from Ajras Al Hurriya " newspaper by an intelligence officer responsible for proof censorship. The incident took place on 23 October 2008.
This action so outraged the newspaper that it suspended its circulation for the day as a protest against the blatant censorship.
The proofs addressed the issues of abducted Chinese citizens and the crisis in Darfur, and criticized the Sudanese president's statement excluding some Sudanese tribes from holding citizenship, amongst other controversial views.
The Sudanese authorities banned Saturday the publication of two daily newspapers after a three day strike to protest against press censorship and journalists arrest.
The National Security Service barred Ajras Al-Huriya and Ray Al-Shab newspapers from publishing on Saturday because they didn't inform the security apparatus of the strike.
They told us 'you didn't inform us about your strike and... we're taking the measure of stopping you for one day', said Murtada Al-Ghali, the editor in chief of Ajras Al-Hurriya.to sanction sanctioned two daily newspapers that were in a three day
On Tuesday November 4, Sudanese journalists began a 24-hour hunger strike and the Ajras Al-Hurriya, Al-Maidan and Rayal Al-Shab newspapers halted production for three days, saying they could no longer accept government restrictions over editorial
Ajras al-Huriya whose name means Freedom Bells in English, had failed to appear more than 20 times since its April 7 launch owing to censors. The daily is closely linked to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main partner of the National
Congress Party and the ruling party in southern Sudan.
Police in Sudan have arrested more than 60 journalists during a protest against media censorship, witnesses say.
Riot police armed with canes and shields rounded up the journalists outside parliament and took them to a police station, witnesses say.
Those detained have subsequently been released, officials say.
Demonstrators said they had been protesting against a press crackdown under way despite guarantees of media freedom in a 2005 peace deal.
Those arrested included senior editorial staff and a number of women, witnesses said.
Murtada el-Ghali, editor in chief of the Ajras al-Hurriya newspaper, told AFP news agency that police had taken mobile phones and money from some of those arrested.
There have been weeks of protests against media censorship in Sudan led by Ajras al-Hurriya and two other papers. Editors say that newspapers are now subject to nightly checks by the security forces who routinely remove articles they do not approve of.
As part of a growing protest against state censorship ten Sudanese newspapers suspended publication on Tuesday, journalists said.
Sudanese reporters said it was the biggest voluntary shut down of the media since the days of British rule in the 1950s.
The protest came a day after 63 journalists and newspaper staff were detained for more than three hours by police after staging a rally outside Sudan's parliament.
This is a real step forward, said Faisal Mohamed Saleh, a columnist for Al-Akhbar newspaper: In the past a few partisan newspapers have staged protests. But most of the people who are taking part today are journalists from independent
The 10 papers were planning to shut-down again on Wednesday if other publications agreed to join in, said Saleh.
Journalists complain of nightly visits from security officers who instruct editors to remove sensitive articles from the next day's edition.
Sudan's intelligence chief says state censorship will not be lifted under pressure.
Sudanese journalists recently held demonstrations protesting state censorship of media.
But the head of Sudan's intelligence, Salah Gosh, was quoted in most Khartoum-based newspapers as blaming irresponsible journalists for the censorship. He says they have failed to protect national interests.
Sudan has been urged to stop censoring a daily newspaper after employees at al-Midan went on strike and the newspaper failed to appear on
According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information says that authorities require that the newspapers send a copy of each edition to the Media section of intelligence for pre-publishing approval with an intelligence office for each newspaper.
The list of forbidden topics described as sensitive includes Darfur, Abyei, the Water Dams projects in northern Sudan and any criticism of the president, the armed forces or intelligence.
The latest dispute arose after the observer expunged six internal pages and removed some topics entirely from the prepared proofs, meaning that they were rendered meaningless and useless.
In a statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemned the pre- and post-publishing censorship on the Sudanese press, considering it as a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression, opinion and media provided by the
interim constitution. Therefore ANHRI demands the Sudanese government end all forms of unlawful censorship against journalists.
The Sudanese authorities banned a daily newspaper for two days for their coverage of press conference held by the Secretary General of the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement and articles on the press freedom.
Ajras Al-Hurriya, a pro-SPLM daily newspaper had been banned by the security service on Thursday and Friday for the coverage of a press conference held by Pagan Amum the SPLM secretary general and some editorials written by the editor in chief and other
journalists on the draft of new press law.
In a press release the daily denounced the abusive censorship saying other newspapers were allowed to publish the same coverage of Pagan statements. It also added that security officials remove official’s news, interviews and even the commercial
The international rights group Human Rights Watch has urged the Sudanese legislators to make major changes to a draft press law before the national assembly, saying current version retains many repressive provisions.
Human Rights Watch said these revisions are needed to bring Sudan's laws into line with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to create an environment for free and fair elections, now slated for February 2010.
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said the revision of the draft press act is a critical step in the law reform process: The government's pre-print censorship, harassment, and arrests of journalists, editors, and human rights
activists are stifling free speech as Sudan faces crucial elections.
Local reports said the measures which maintain the press under government control include strict media registration rules, vague reporting prohibitions, a National Press Council controlled by the president with broad regulatory powers, and heavy fines
and criminal sanctions for media outlets and journalists.
Human Rights Watch has also expressed concerns over the draft law which contains powers for security services to detain individuals for up to one month without judicial review. This is in contravention of international standards that require
individuals arrested to be promptly brought before a judge, the international rights organisation said.
More than 50 Sudanese journalists protested outside the National Assembly in Omdurman on Tuesday against a draft law of press largely criticized for repressive articles it includes.
The new press bill put the media and the media houses under the control of the Sudanese presidency which appoint 8 of the 21 members of the Press Council. No media house will be established or journalist authorized to exercise this activity without a
licence from the council.
Also the disputed bill allows the council to close newspapers and authorizes the judge to impose 50,000 new Sudanese pound fines for infractions.
Sudanese Journalists Network, which includes hundreds of independent journalists said that it organized the protest against the new draft press law because it limits the freedom of the press and impose restrictions on journalists and frightens
them by an arsenal of sanctions.
The demonstration comes as the Sudanese parliament begun today to discuss the contested draft of the press law. Some 150 legislators from the SPLM and opposition National Democratic Alliance boycotted the discussion to mark their position from this bill
restrictive of press freedom.
Sudanese media have suffered multiple blows in recent months as parliament considers a harshly repressive press bill and authorities impose an exceptional level of censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The press bill, introduced in the Sudanese National Assembly in April, falls far short of international standards for free expression, according to CPJ's analysis.
The bill grants the National Council for the Press and Publications unprecedented authority to grant and revoke publication licenses; impose strict disciplinary measures against journalists; conduct examination of journalists to determine their
suitability for the profession; and confiscate printing equipment. Eight of the council's 21 members would be appointed by the president, according to the bill. The president's office would have sole oversight of the National Council for the Press and
According to the bill, newspapers would have to renew licenses annually and journalists must be registered with the council in order to work. Journalists can be fined up to 50,000 new Sudanese pounds (US$21,000) for violating any provision of the bill,
according to Article 37. Article 26 stipulates that an editor-in-chief bears primary legal responsibility for all matters appearing in a newspaper, but it assigns legal responsibility to writers, editors, publishers, printers, and distributors as well.
In another alarming development, local journalists told CPJ that security agents are imposing censorship at an ever-increasing rate. The 1999 National Security Forces Law grants security forces significant powers over the media.
Around 9 p.m. every day, security officers visit newspapers to determine what they can print and what will be censored, journalists told CPJ. It is totally arbitrary, Murtadha al-Ghali, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Ajras al-Huriya,
told CPJ. [The officer] removes certain articles from our newspaper and the next day other newspapers publish similar articles.
Sudanese parliament agreed to remove the heavy fine imposed on the journalists in a draft law discussed currently by the legislators, the head of Sudanese journalists syndicate said.
Mahi Eddin Titawi, said yesterday they had agreed with a National Assembly subcommittee reviewing the contested press draft law to drop the fine of 50,000 Sudanese pound (21,500 US dollars) that journalists could face for unspecified offences.
Titawi further said the journalists would not have to be registered at the government controlled press council but at the journalists syndicate.
Sudan Monday passed an amended version of a media bill that sparked protests in Khartoum last month, but the new version failed to allay the fears of many Sudanese journalists.
A peace accord, which ended more than 20 years of fighting between the north and south, also promised Sudan's first free elections in 24 years. Analysts and Sudanese opposition politicians have said a new press law is crucial for the February ballot.
Journalists said Monday they were pleased legislators had removed a section from earlier drafts that would have allowed a powerful press council to fine journalists or newspapers up to 50,000 Sudanese Pounds ($21,000). In the final version, law courts
decide penalties and can choose how long to suspend newspapers.
But the new press bill leaves room for state interference on the grounds of national security or public order and it remains unclear if censorship will be reduced.
As Sudan prepares for the first general elections in decades, President Omar al-Beshir lifts censorship on the press.
As of today, censorship is over and journalists have complete freedom, said a presidential decree carried by the official SUNA news agency.
Head of the country's Press Council, Ali Shimo, said the pre-censorship system was called off after editors, journalists' associations and censors signed an ethics code for practicing journalism.
Up to now, a group of government-led sensors screened newspapers every night before hitting the stands to purge them of sensitive articles despite a law guaranteeing freedom of the press .
Under the law, passed in parliament in June, the press were granted freedom but banned from provoking religious or ethnic or racial sedition or calling for war or violence, while respecting and protecting public ethics, religious values and
those found guilty of violating the press law had to pay a fixed penalty set by the courts. But in practice, the law was impractical and the censors continued their job.
The new press law and lifting of censorship will only be applied to the written press and not to television.
A Sudanese newspaper said it would suspend publication for one week in protest at stringent censorship by authorities,
as five other papers were censored in Africa's largest country, journalists said.
Direct pre-publication censorship was reintroduced for two daily papers last month and four others also complained they were visited by Sudanese security forces who removed many pages of content.
We will suspend our newspaper for a week in protest at the pre-(publication) censorship, said Faiz Al-Silaik, acting editor in chief of the Ajras Al-Huriya paper, aligned to the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
Ajras Al-Huriya was unable to go to press on Sunday for the third day in a row and the opposition Al-Meydan, aligned to the Communist Party, was not allowed to print.
They went to the printing press...and they told the press not to print the paper, said managing editor Mohamed el-Fatih from Al-Meydan. The main news they were unhappy about seemed to be the doctors' strike.
Journalists from six independent or opposition papers told Reuters they were visited and directly censored by the security forces late on Saturday night.
Other papers said they were called and told not to write about specific news including the strike by doctors over pay and working conditions and the International Criminal Court, unless it was from a government source.
The Sudanese General Union of Sudanese Journalists moderated a dialogue between the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and two independent newspapers subject to pre-publication censorship and managed to lift it as a result, state
media reported today.
The Secretary general of the pro-government union Mohyideen Tetawi said that they will defend press freedom by all means but at the same time stressed that the country's sovereignty and dignity is a red line cannot be overstepped .
Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir last year lifted press censorship after petitions from the journalists' union but warned editor in chiefs that they should avoid what leads to exceeding the red lines and avoid mixing what is patriotic
and what is destructive to the nation, sovereignty, security, values and its morality .
Sudan intelligence services have imposed press censorship, which was lifted in September, six months ahead of a key referendum on independence
for south Sudan, the country's association of journalists said.
We have been notified by the intelligence services that the newspaper Al-Intibaha has been closed and that from today press censorship has once again been imposed, Mohiedinne Titawi, president of the Sudanese Union of Journalists, told AFP.
The censorship will focus on the issue of the country's unity or separation and the security of south Sudan, he added.
Titawi's comments follow earlier reports by Sudanese journalists that the government halted the distribution of three newspapers considered critical of the authorities in south Sudan.
The three dailies, Al-Intibaha, Al-Tayyar and Al-Ahdath, which are all deemed critical in one way or another of the south Sudan authorities, were not available on the streets of the capital on Tuesday, according to journalists working for the publications.
Al-Intibaha, which will be closed for an undetermined period, according to its editor Al-Siddig al-Rizeigui, was one of the only newspapers openly advocating secession.
Sudan's National Assembly has welcomed the National Security Organ's decision to lift censorship, terming it as a significant step toward
boosting press freedoms.
Abdurham Ahmed Al-Sheikh Al-Fadni, the Head Acting Human Rights Committee, hailed the initiative of the national press to serve national interests and enlightenment on challenging facing the country. He said the decision would put Sudanese press
before a new challenge with regard to performing its duties toward the country through self-monitoring and complying with the Press Ethic, Press Association and Press & Prints Council.
Lieut. Gen. Mohamed Ataa, Chief of National Security and Intelligence affirmed that the organ preserves it constitutional right to impose partial or full censorship whenever necessary, adding that the security organ is keen on press and political
rights as long as there is common agreement to prejudice against principles of the country and unity of its territories.
Amnesty International calls on Sudan to release 16 people seized during a raid on a newspaper headquarters in Khartoum.
16 people, including nine members of staff working with the Communist party-affiliated newspaper Al-Midan, were arrested by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents.
The Sudanese government must immediately release all those detained during this blatant attempt to stifle free speech, said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa Program director: The people of Sudan have every right to peaceful
protest without fear of arrest, assault and harassment. And the media have every right to freely report these events.
The Al-Midan newspaper was banned from distributing an edition which carried reports covering protests in Khartoum inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt. Opposition newspaper Ajrass Al Hurriya and independent Al Sahafa were also stopped from
distributing similar reports.
Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire Sunday edition of an independent newspaper, its editor said.
Sudan's constitution supposedly guarantees press freedom but several journalists have been detained without charge in recent months and papers are often subject to direct censorship.
Police came after midnight and took all copies after we had printed it. They gave no explanation, said Osman Murghni, editor of Al-Tayar newspaper. He said authorities had not informed the newspaper why the edition was taken and he said
it was probably to show its disapproval of coverage of Monday's elections in South Kordofan.
Sudan's government is considering introducing even more restrictions on the country's press..
The Sudanese National Assembly is considering introducing a new press and publications law that will further restrict freedom of expression in the North. Sudan's National Congress Party (NCP) is contemplating enforcing pre-publication censorship as it
did between 1989 and 2009. Following this, the government passed a new law, which it claimed was a step towards press freedom. However, despite the new law, pre-publication censorship was selectively enforced by the regime during Sudan's 2010 elections.
The details of the proposed legislation have not been made available to the public.
Sudan will suspend six sports newspapers and issue warnings to three others, the national press council said, for supposed violations
including encouraging violence between rival soccer teams, in the latest crackdown on the media.
The National Press Council will suspend the sports newspapers because they had violated journalistic standards and for administrative issues, which are damaging Sudan's reputation, its Secretary General El-Obeid Ahmed Morawah said. He cited the
encouragement of violence between competing football teams as one violation.
In July, two female journalists of the al-Jarida daily were sentenced to one month in prison for writing an article about the alleged rape of an activist by security forces. The security forces have categorically denied the rape allegations.
Security forces have now informed al-Jarida staff that it will no longer be allowed to publish, said editor-in-chief Saad el-Din Ibrahim. They told us about a decision by security forces that the newspaper will be closed and its property will be
confiscated. They didn't give a reason. Staff were told by them to take their personal belongings.
The entire print-run of two Sudanese newspapers have been seized by The National Intelligence and Security Services.
Al-Tayar and Al-Youm Al-Tali newspapers 20th February editions were confiscated after they published statements made by Hassan al-Turabi the leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP). Turabi alleged that his office had been wiretapped by security
services, and showed journalists some of the listening devices he found. Security agents arrived at the newspaper's Khartoum offices and seized the expose edition.
Twenty newspaper reporters protested the confiscation in front of the National Press Council, which licenses newspapers.
Sudanese security forces confiscated the Sunday editions of two newspapers. Authorities confiscated copies of the independent al-Sahafa, one of Sudan's
oldest dailies, after it had been printed, the newspaper's editor Alnoor Ahmed Alnoor said.
We consider the confiscation to be equal to an economic penalty on the newspaper, he said, adding the authorities did not give a reason for the seizure.
A security agent also went to the printing house of the al-Jarida newspaper after midnight and banned it from publishing, managing editor Idris al-Douma said. They confiscated every copy of the paper, he said.
He too said he was not given a reason why the papers were seized.
Sudan's authorities have forced closure of country's largest daily newspaper
At the end of September, Al-Intibaha's official website said that authorities had ordered the halt indefinitely.
The paper, the country's largest in terms of circulation, is owned and run by al-Tayab Mustafa, the president's uncle. The closure comes after a week of Sudan's most extensive demonstrations in years , which began as a protest against fuel price hikes.
The two most influential independent newspapers in Sudan, Al-Sahafa and Al-Kartoum, have recently been bought by the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS).
The NISS now owns 90% of all the independent newspapers in the country, according to Alnoor Ahmed Alnoor, the ex-editor in chief of Al-Sahafa.
The NISS purchased 65% of Al-Sahafa's stock from a company called Bayader and a further 25% from Sideeq Wadaa, a businessman and member of the ruling NCP Party (with the remainder retained by the paper's founder, Taha Ali Albashir). This follows the
purchase of 80% of the stock of Al-Khartoum from its owner, Albagir Abdellah, five months ago.
Ownership represents the final stage in the Sudanese government's campaign to silence independent voices in the media. Newspapers that refused to tow the NCP line or implement its agendas faced harassment, and fifteen newspapers were forcibly closed
following the independence of South Sudan in 2011. Punitive taxes were also imposed, as was the case with the Al-Sudani between 2006 to 2011, which eventually forced the paper's owner to sell it to a member of the NCP.