The Cairo-based Arab Network for Crisis Information has expressed its “deep concern” about the “systematic violations and the vicious attacks” by the Sudanese authorities on the press in the country.
In a statement last week, the Network mentions the barring of four journalists from travelling to Saudi Arabia on May 22 without providing a reason. The delegation invited to attend an event in Saudi Arabia included editors of the newspapers El Tayyar, El Jarida, and the digital news site Akhbar Baj.
Agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) shortly held a group of Sudanese journalists about their visit to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, to which they were invited by the Saudi embassy in Khartoum. The security officers questioned the journalists on the pretext that the visit was conducted without coordination with the Sudanese authorities and because of their meeting with Taha Othman, Advisor to the Saudi Foreign Minister for African Affairs.
The Arab Network also points to the instructions the NISS sent to the editors-in-chief of the Sudanese newspapers earlier this year. The newspapers are not allowed to cross the “red line” by tackling “events that affect the public opinion”, including the case of businessman Okasha Ahmed who was accused of money laundering and destroying the national economy by the NISS. Ahmed died “under mysterious circumstances in the custody of the Sudanese security apparatus”, the Network says. “However, the security service was quick to issue a statement [..] saying that Okasha had ‘committed suicide’ by hanging himself inside the security services' premises on May 17.”
The NISS as well issued orders to the local newspapers not to cover the current fuel crisis, “the biggest crisis the Sudanese regime ever experienced”.
The security authorities summoned Ahmed Younes, the correspondent of the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat in Khartoum, more than once in May, to investigate a report published by the newspaper entitled “Sudan … Operation" Hummingbird” which dealt with alleged conflicts within the ruling party.
The newspapers Baath and Akhbar El Watan, the mouthpieces of the Baath Party of Sudan respectively the Sudanese Congress Party were confiscated more than once this month, in different parts of this month from the printing press after printing without giving reasons.
“In recent years, the security apparatus began resorting to the judiciary as a complainant, as if it is the victim of publication, but it does not stop interfering in the newspapers’ work,” the Network says.
The Arab Network further condemns the continuing confiscation of newspapers, and calls it “deliberate behaviour intended to cause damage to publishers and newspapers”. These confiscations cause editors and journalists to practise self-censorship, in order not to be harassed by the NISS.
“The most dangerous types of censorship are the ones that weaken professionalism and credibility by publishing some facts and hiding others,” according to the Arab Network.
The Network also regrets the silence of the Sudanese Journalists Union and the Press and Publications Council – which are supposed to protect the journalists.
The violations against press freedom put Sudan's name at the bottom of Reporters Without Borders 2018 index on press freedoms in 180 countries, the statement concludes.