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Dutch Ambassador denies disagreeing with Radio Dabanga

February 16 - 2016 KHARTOUM
Dutch Ambassador Mrs. Susan Blankhart (R) and Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour (M) after meeting in Khartoum on 7 February 2016 (@susanblankhart)
Dutch Ambassador Mrs. Susan Blankhart (R) and Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour (M) after meeting in Khartoum on 7 February 2016 (@susanblankhart)

Following objections by the Sudanese government made to the Dutch government, for allowing Radio Dabanga to run its radio station in the Netherlands, the Dutch Embassy has refuted reports that its delegation disagreed with the station’s broadcasts.

The Dutch Ambassador to Sudan, Susan Blankhart, confirmed to Radio Dabanga today that the issue of press freedom was discussed during a consultative meeting between the Dutch delegation and the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs a week ago.

At the joint press conference with the Dutch Ambassador, director of bilateral relations Dafalla El Haj mentioned his Ministry’s discontent at the broadcasts of Radio Dabanga.

“We discussed the subject of Radio Dabanga in the meeting. The Dutch government said that they do not bless the matter, but that their laws allow the freedom of expression,” El Haj told reporters on Sunday 7 February.

Daily newspapers in Khartoum, including El Youm El Tali, El Taghyeer, and the Arabic Sudan Tribune reported about the government’s objections to the Dutch government last week. A number wrote that the Dutch delegation showed regrets that it is unable to shut down the independent radio station.

Dutch Ambassador Blankhart replied in an e-mail: “....press freedom is a very relevant issue for the Dutch government. Some Sudanese media report that the Dutch delegation disagrees with Radio Dabanga in terms of content. That is factually not true and was not said by the Dutch delegates.”

Newspapers

“Radio Dabanga is active in airing a lot of misinformation about Sudan,” Akhir Lahza reported the ministry official as saying, “and contributes to a lack of stability and peace in the country.” The Dutch response to this was that they ‘cannot afford to shut down the radio’ owing to freedom of expression”, the daily wrote.

The Sudanese Democratic Forum in the Netherlands wrote a letter to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs last the weekend, expressing its concerns about the objections of the Sudanese government and President Omar Al Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Sudan does not value press freedom and continues to suppress the free speech of Sudanese abroad. We hope that the Netherlands do not cooperate with Sudan’s efforts to silence Radio Dabanga,” the forum writes in its letter, extended to this radio station.

In December, Members of Parliament criticised the Ministry of Information for failing to provide radio coverage in the states of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, “leaving the field to Radio Dabanga”. An official complaint from the Ministry of Information resulted in the removal of the Dabanga Sudan satellite channel from Arabsat Broadcast Services in May 2015.

Bilateral relations

The consultative meeting between the Sudanese Ministry and Dutch delegates one week ago further discussed bilateral relations. The Foreign Ministry requested the Dutch government to assist in lifting the economic sanctions against Sudan, and to cancel the country’s debt to the Netherlands. The Netherlands holds the presidency of the European Union from 1 January until 30 June 2016.


Related articles:

Sudanese MPs demand radio stations to compete with Radio Dabanga (2 December 2015)

NISS pulls plug on radio show, 'restricts Sudan's media' (13 November 2015)


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