In what journalists have termed "a massacre of the Sudanese press", the print runs of 14 publications were confiscated by Sudanese security agents (NISS) on Monday morning. No reasons were given for the move.
Protesting journalists said this mass confiscation of newspapers is unprecedented in Sudanese history. Al-Sudani, Al-Rayaam, Al-Intibaha, Al-Tayar, Al-Saiha, Akhir Lahza, Awal Al-Nahar, Al-Migher Al-Siyasi, Al-Watan, Alwan, Al-Ahram Al-Youm, and Akhbar Al-Youm with political comment were confiscated in the dawn raids, and two social magazines Agdar and Sikayat were also seized.
Journalist and writer El Haj Warrag, founder and director of Hurriyat, an independent news website, condemned the NISS raids, suggesting the intention is ‘a cover-up against corruption’. In an interview with Dabanga, he said “the huge level of corruption in Sudan cannot be hidden by silencing journalists” pointing out that the NISS have a ‘black list’ of 25 journalists who are not allowed to write for Sudanese newspapers.
On behalf of the government, Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said “the confiscation by security agents of 14 newspapers on Monday is justified by law. He threatened to clamp-down on “any attempt to broadcast sedition and threats to national security".
The Director of the National Council for Press and Publications expressed deep regret at the move, “which was taken to disrupt the circulation of a large number of newspapers. Even if we assume there were errors in the newspapers, such matters must be dealt with in accordance with the Press and Publication Act of 2009.”
She stressed that her Council would contact the Presidency, the partners of journalism in the country, representatives of the Union of Journalists, publishers, editors and the Ministry of Information and Security Service to contain the negative effects of what has occurred.
In a statement today, the National Consensus Forces expressed full solidarity with “the press family that was hit today in the massacre."
The confiscations of print runs by the security service has not gone unnoticed outside of Sudan. Reporters Without Borders, monitoring press freedom worldwide, has ranked Sudan #174 out of the 180 countries it surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index. After Eritrea, Sudan has the worst press freedom of all African countries, mostly owing to the censoring and seizing of newspapers, the press freedom monitor found.