The Sudanese security service confiscated copies of El Jareeda and El Tayyar newspapers from the printing house on Thursday early morning, without providing an explanation.
Ashraf Abdelaziz, the editor of El Jareeda, told Radio Dabanga that a security service officer turned up at the printing press and confiscated all the copies. “This is the third confiscation of our newspaper this month. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) imposes punitive confiscations of newspapers with the aim to cause them financial losses.”
The confiscation of the two newspapers while the Sudanese Press Act is facing draft amendments that would curb press freedom, is a sign of further restrictions on the Sudanese press, Abdelaziz added.
Confiscation of printed copies is seen as an economic penalty on the press the security service decides when a newspaper publishes news or opinion articles criticising the government. But sometimes the measure aims to prevent publication of statements or disclosure of information on sensitive issues.
Osman Mirghani, editor-in-chief of El Tayyar newspaper, told Radio Dabanga that the newspaper's representative at the printing press notified him that at 2:30am on Thursday that NISS members confiscated all the copies of the newspaper without giving any reasons.
“The reason behind the confiscation probably is our coverage of the economic measures and the drop of the Sudanese Pound's value against the US Dollar in recent weeks.”
Mirghani said that the confiscations of newspapers “lead to significant financial and moral losses” to the newspapers.
Meanwhile the Sudanese Journalists’ Network has condemned the confiscations in a statement, and called upon journalists in Sudan “to act quickly in moving from words to deeds”.
Facing heavy censorship, many print newspapers have shifted to digital formats
The office of El Jareeda organised a gathering of the Sudanese Journalists' Network and Sudanese press this week, to discuss how they can counter the proposed amendments to the 2009 Press Act.
So far, draft amendments have remained confidential. But according to a publication of the draft by El Tayyar, amendments include limitations on the electronic press' freedom and these are similar to the restrictions already imposed on the traditional press. In addition the Press Council would receive more power.
Facing heavy censorship, many print newspapers have shifted to digital formats to circulate censored or banned material on their websites and social media pages, press freedom NGO Freedom House reported. In response to the vibrant online information landscape, the highly restrictive Press and Printed Press Materials Law of 2004 was updated in November 2016 to include specific clauses pertaining to online journalism, extending onerous limitations long placed on the traditional press to the online sphere.
During past years, the NISS upgraded its already severe restrictions on press freedoms by restoring pre-publication censorship and issuing a number of 'red lines' on matters that are not supposed to be covered by the media. The 2009 Press and Publications Act allows for restrictions on the press in the interests of national security and public order, contains loosely defined provisions related to bans, and holds editors-in-chief criminally liable for all content published in their newspapers.