The Network of Journalists for Human Rights (JAHR) has harshly criticised the draft Act approved by the Sudanese Cabinet on Thursday, which provides for the suspension of journalists from writing and the expansion of powers of the Press and Publications Council.
Faisal El Bagir, the general coordinator of JAHR, told Radio Dabanga that the aim of the Act is to get the electronic press into the house of obedience.
He pointed to the strong impact of electronic journalism on the situation in Sudan and revealed the Act’s adoption of imposing penalties on writers and journalists rather than publishers.
El Bagir warned that the passage of the Act might lead to journalists’ exercise of self-censorship that he considered silencing of the press from the content and a scotch of critical voices.
He said the current Act is in preparation for the 2020 elections.
El Bagir said that the government is working on the preparation of a number of Acts restricting freedoms and the Constitution as part of the completion of the state security control over everything.
He told Radio Dabanga that the Act included a project to merge the Sudanese newspapers, which leads to the government’s control over the press.
El Bagir expressed full confidence in the ability of the press community to defeat the law.
He called on the journalists to unite in the largest front and expand the circle of resistance and resistance in the confrontation in order to topple the current Act.
The Cabinet approved the amendment draft of Press and Publications Acts for 2018, which added new powers to suspend the journalist from writing and withdraw their license.
Spokesman for the Cabinet, Omar Mohamed Saleh, said that the general features of the amendment included the amendment of the interpretation of the word "newspaper" to include the electronic press and the amendment of article 5 to ensure freedom of expression that guarantees communication and access to information.
He added that the new Act would ensure that the council could stop a journalist from writing for the period it deems appropriate, withdraw the temporary license, and amend article 39 by adding a empowering the council to determine the controls governing the advertisement in newspapers.
Press freedom watchdog
International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement on June 14 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.
“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 Al-Jareeda and Al-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.