Sudan’s NISS summons editors-in-chief after meeting with diplomats
Agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated the copies of El Jareeda and El Tayyar newspapers from the printing press on Thursday morning, most probably because of a meeting of Sudanese journalists with EU and US diplomats earlier this week.
The editors-in-chief of the two newspapers were summoned without an explanation.
On his way to the NISS offices in Khartoum, editor-in-chief of El Jareeda, Ashraf Abdelaziz, told reporters that security officers halted the distribution of the newspaper after 7 am. “The action will cause huge losses to El Jareeda, especially as the printing costs have significantly risen,” he said.
He expected to be interrogated together with Osman Mirghani, editor-in-chief of El Tayyar, about their participation in a meeting with European and US diplomats about the press situation in the country.
On Tuesday, a number of European ambassadors and the US chargé d’affairs met with a number of editors-in-chief and journalists to discuss press freedom in the country.
In a statement released after the meeting, EU Ambassador Jean-Michel Dumond said he would discuss the situation of the press in the country with the Sudanese government. He pointed to the 2020 election and the importance of human rights and democracy in the country.
In response, Dumond was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that they told the EU ambassador that the way the meeting was organised exceeded diplomatic norms and guidelines.
The Ministry also expressed its surprise that the meeting addressed “unresolved issues such as [the recent amendments of] the Press and Publication Act, which is still being debated by the institutions concerned”.
The editor-in-chief of El Masadir newspaper, Abdelmajid Abdelhamid reported on Thursday that three unidentified men stormed the newspaper office on Wednesday evening. They said they were looking for the editor-in-chief.
“They shouted a lot and threatened to destroy the computers and technical equipment in the office,” Abdelhamid said.
He described the intrusion as “a weird threat to newspapers and journalists”.
Media in Sudan are continuously subjected to confiscations of newspapers, and summons and detentions of journalists.
In 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.
Abdelaziz 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 Sans Frontieres.
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