Sudan to combat ‘cybercrimes on social media’
The Sudanese government's fight against social media and other electronic means of publication has raised concerns about further restrictions on civil freedoms in the country.
Last week, Sudan’s Chief Justice Haydar Ahmed Dafallah announced strict regulations on the electronic media.
He directed punitive measures, including imprisonment, fines, and lashes, for “cybercrimes on social media”, and the appointment of three judges instead of one at Sudan’s Cybercrime Court.
The President of the General Court for Information Crimes Mohamed El Tayeb told reporters in Khartoum that most of the social media crimes are related to the harming of reputation and to threats.
He said that many complaints have been lodged by university students concerning the violation of privacy. Another main issue concerns pornographic films.
According to human rights lawyer Saleh Mahmoud, the authorities are attempting to restrict the domains of electronic publishing and social media under the pretext of combating cybercrime.
In an interview with Radio Dabanga broadcast today, the lawyer said the government is violating the 2005 Interim Constitution and international human rights agreements. “The people have the right to know the motives behind the various decisions taken by the government.”
He considers the chief justice’s orders concerning cybercrimes “inseparable from what is happening in the political arena.
“It is just another attempt to intimidate the Sudanese people.”
“The government intends to block information on corruption cases. Yet the facts leak to the surface after a while, creating a climate suitable for the spread of rumours.”
Mahmoud expressed his concerns about further restrictions on the freedom of expression and circulation of information on sensitive issues that are of direct importance to the people.
“The restrictions on electronic media are an extension of the oppressive policies towards the newspapers, radio and TV channels, of imposing red lines concerning topics that newspapers and journalists are forbidden to deal with.”
The lawyer called the new measures “meaningless”, as “The Criminal Law of 1991 is more than sufficient to deal with any crime related to encroachment of privacy, calumny, harming of reputations or state security. The only aim of the new measures is to frighten the people.”
“It is just another attempt to intimidate the Sudanese people in order to keep them quiet,” Feisal El Bagir, Coordinator-general of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) called the government campaign to control the electronic media.
“Most journalists themselves loath malicious publications,” he said.
El Bagir described the campaign as “an unveiled attempt to criminalise the expression of opinion and circulation of information. But these attempts will not discourage individuals and groups from publishing news about the corruption practised by government employees.”
He stated that “JHR will continue to fight against this new trend as we are doing with the oppressive Press Law”.
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