The Media Charter of Honour that has been signed by Sudanese press and the Sudanese security apparatus does not solve the problems of the press in Sudan, according to critics of the new charter.
The head of the National Umma Party and Sudan Call (an umbrella of armed groups, opposition parties and civil society), El Sadig El Mahdi, voiced his critique in an interview with Radio Dabanga.
“The charter contains 22 undisputed principles such as ‘respect for the public to obtain correct information’ and ‘non-bias to racist calls’, etcetera. […] I have dealt with dozens of journalists outside the protocol framework and have not seen any deviation or falsification in the information they provide, whereas the charter is picturing journalists as if they are the perpetrators who deviate from these principles.”
El Mahdi said that journalists are victims of repression, by banning them from writing and physical assaults against them. “What is required in this regard is the repeal of laws that are contrary to the Sudanese constitution and international covenants on civil, social, economic and cultural rights.”
On November 1, newspaper editors signed a restrictive media charter at the National Assembly in the presence of the prime minister, the attorney-general and the director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The charter stipulates that no material or news about the Sudanese regular forces is to be published without indication of a spokesman.
The government made a promise not to confiscate newspapers or ban journalists from writing.
The signing of the current charter recalls the charter from 2009, which was also signed by newspaper editors-in-chief at the time. The NISS used it as a pretext to conduct censorship prior to publication and confiscate newspapers. Originally, the NISS did not have the authority to interfere in the content of Sudanese newspapers.
General coordinator of the Arab Network for Crisis Information, Journalist Suleiman Sirri, said that the new charter will not stop the repeated violations by the security apparatus against journalists.
“The press will be subjected to more pressure in the future as a result of the signing of this charter. The head of the security apparatus said that the monitoring and censorship will remain present,” Sirri told Radio Dabanga, adding that the NISS does not respect any of the media charters, nor respect the constitution and international covenants.
“If there would be any good intentions, the ban on the group of writers who have been banned permanently from writing would be lifted.” Among the banned writers are Abdallah El Sheikh, Zuheir El Sarraj Osman Shabouna, Abdelbagi El Zafir and Salma Tijani.
Sudan is ranked at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.