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Sudan journalists summoned for reports on economic malaise

December 20 - 2018 KHARTOUM

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) summoned several journalists in Khartoum this week for covering topics related to the ongoing economic crisis, and related cash, fuel, and bread shortages. The Sudanese Journalists’ Network has condemned the summonses as a violation of the media charter.

On Wednesday, the NISS summoned Ahmed Khojali and Ali Farsab of El Tayyar newspaper and Ahmed Younis, the correspondent of the London-based El Sharq El Awsat newspaper.

The network said in a statement that the summoning of Farsab and Khojali came because of the publication of statements by the of Minister of Foreign Ministry Osama Feisal denying the presence of deposits worth ‘billions’ in the Central Bank of Sudan.

Younis was summoned after he published a report on the economic crises and the long queues for bread, fuel, and cash at ATMs.

On Tuesday, the NISS summoned journalist Asma Juma, a columnist for El Tayyar daily newspaper for similar reporting.

Media Charter

Following a campaign of ongoing newspaper confiscations by the NISS, several Sudanese newspaper editors signed a restrictive media charter in November, that stipulates that no material or news about the regular forces, their plans, activities and movements shall be published, except if they come from the spokesman of the specific force. The published facts |shall not be distorted, truncated or fabricated and ought to be non-biased to racist, fanatical or insulting calls to religions and beliefs”.

Ongoing media curbs

The media in Sudan are continuously subjected to confiscations of newspapers, and summons and detentions of journalists.

At the end of June, the cabinet extended the power of the government-controlled Press and Publications Council as well as restrictions on the media to online news outlets, when it passed amendments of the Media and Publication Act. A month later, the NISS restored prior-censorship of newspapers.

In early August, editors-in-chief and the head of the NISS in Khartoum agreed in a meeting to form a committee to deliberate on the so-called red lines set by the security apparatus for Sudanese media. New confiscations of newspapers were therefore briefly suspended.

However, the NISS began gagging the press again on August 27, when the print-runs of El Jareeda and El Tayyar were confiscated. No explanations were given. Four days later, NISS officers stopped the distribution of El Jareeda and El Tayyar again, together with the print-run of El Rai El Aam, without stating a reason.

Ashraf Abdelaziz, the editor-in-chief of El Jareeda newspaper, told Radio Dabanga at the time that “in the past there used to be ‘red lines’ not to criticise the president or vice-presidents of Sudan, members of the security apparatus, and the police. However, these lines have become very unclear and unpredictable now”.

In early September, three young journalists were summoned by security agents in Khartoum and El Gedaref. A Sudanese reporter was banned from writing. The print-run of El Saiha daily, the newspaper he was writing for, was confiscated on September 8.

Sudan is ranked at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.

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