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International press freedom watchdog condemns 'NISS offensive against critical journalists' in Sudan

June 14 - 2018 PARIS
A newspaper kiosk in Khartoum (File photo: SUNA)
A newspaper kiosk in Khartoum (File photo: SUNA)

International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement today condemning “another offensive against critical journalists and media outlets by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)”.

The statement issued by RSF headquarters in Paris, France, refers to the seizure by the NISS in the past week of entire issues of three privately-owned dailies and interrogated two journalists for covering sensitive issues.

In their latest bid to gag the press, as reported by Radio Dabanga, NISS agents confiscated the entire print-run of the daily El Tayyar as it came off the press on two days running, on 10 and 11 June, in response to a column by reporter Shamail El Nur in the 9 June issue in which she said President Omar Al Bashir’s resignation would benefit Sudan’s economy. The NISS summoned her twice and questioned her closely. “They reminded me that there are red lines and that I should have known the president was one of them,” she told RSF.

On 13 June, NISS agents seized El Youm El Tali newspaper without reason. A week earlier, they already prevented the daily El Jareeda from distributing that day’s issue until 11 a.m. and restricted its distribution to the capital, Khartoum. For reporting this action, Ahmed Younes, a correspondent for the London-based daily Sharq Al Awsat, was arrested and interrogated by NISS agents for several hours on 7 June. Younes told RSF he was also questioned last month over an article about divisions within the ruling party and was given “strict orders not to cover certain subjects” on pain of losing his press accreditation and being imprisoned. “They talk about ‘red lines’ but they don’t tell us what they are and they vary according to the mood of the investigator at the time,” he said.

“The NISS must stop operating as an ‘editorial police’ that censors journalists and systematically suppresses any critical publication, listing taboo subjects as it pleases,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The survival of a free press in Sudan is at stake.”

In February, RSF condemned a wave of arrests of journalists and confiscations of newspaper issues by the NISS that had begun the previous month. Issues of the El Jareeda and El Watan dailies were also seized without reason on 5 and 6 May.

Sudan is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

 


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