Journalist locked-up for articles by Sudan press court

The Press and Publications Court in Sudan sentenced a former newspaper editor-in-chief to a prison term. He was prosecuted for two reports that were published in El Mustagilla newspaper.

El Mustagilla, a Sudanese newspaper (file photo)

The Press and Publications Court in Sudan sentenced a former newspaper editor-in-chief to a prison term. He was prosecuted for two reports that were published in El Mustagilla newspaper.

Yesterday, the Press Court presided over by Judge Salah Saeed, sentenced Zeinelabdin El Ajab to one and a half months in prison or a fine of SDG5,000 ($178*). The former editor-in-chief was immediately transferred to prison.

El Ajab faces charges under article 66 of the Criminal Code on false publishing, and Article 24/26 of the Press and Publications Act which points to the responsibility of the editor-in-chief of a news medium.

It is noteworthy that El Ajab was referred to the Press and Publications Court by the NISS because of two reports that were published in El Mustagilla, for which he was the acting editor-in-chief. The first article reported on Sudan feeding Islamic State with fighters.

The second publication covered the Qatari funds which Khartoum and Addis Ababa receive for the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which according to the report, inflicted water problems for Egypt in 2015. For its report, El Mustagilla was sentend to paying a fine by the Sudanese press court.

Before sentence was pased, El Ajab requested the appearance of the director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Sudan's foreign minister, the ambassadors of the United States and Egypt to testify about both reports. The request was rejected by the judge.

During the court hearing El Ajab pointed out that his report about the alleged support of Sudan to IS was attributed to the findings in US reports. He added that the Egyptian ambassador's should testify on the second newspaper report about Qatari support to inflict thirst on Egypt.

The charges against El Ajab date back to the end of 2015, when the newspaper first published a report  on Qatar's payment of huge sums to Sudan and Ethiopia ‘to inflict drought on Egypt’.

In the last weeks the Sudanese authorities have continued a crackdown on Sudanese journalists and summoned them to appear before the prosecutor. Several of them had attended a meeting with diplomats from the European Union.

* Based on the indicative US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS)