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Attacks on the Press in 2006 - Snapshots: Sudan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2007
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2006 - Snapshots: Sudan, February 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5676823.html [accessed 2 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein lashed out at foreign journalists attending a March 1 press conference in Khartoum, calling them "terrorists" and expelling them from the room. Hussein was angered by the international media's coverage of the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. "The international media have escalated the problem ... because they sent incorrect information," he was quoted as saying.

Pro-Sudanese government forces detained Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, along with his Chadian interpreter, Suleiman Abakar Moussa, and driver Idriss Abdelrahman Anu, in Darfur on August 6. Salopek was on a freelance assignment for the U.S. magazine National Geographic to report on the culture, geography, and history of Africa's Sahel region. On August 26, a court in El-Fasher charged the three with espionage, illegally disseminating information, and writing "false news," in addition to a noncriminal count of entering the country without a visa. President Omar al-Bashir agreed on September 8 to free the men on humanitarian grounds following a personal appeal from Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

On August 30, Khartoum police beat Ibrahim Muhammad, a cameraman for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and seized his camera during a banned demonstration of opposition parties and their supporters against a rise in gasoline and sugar prices, Reuters reported. The police chased Muhammad, who had been filming the demonstration, and beat him with sticks while firing tear gas into the crowd. One of the tear gas canisters hit a Reuters vehicle, the agency reported.

On September 5, masked gunmen kidnapped editor Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed of the private daily Al-Wifaq outside his home in Khartoum. Police found his severed head next to his body the following day south of the capital. His hands and feet were bound. Taha, 50, was a pro-government Islamist who had offended the country's powerful Islamists by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad. He was detained, his newspaper suspended, and he was subsequently charged with blasphemy. Later in September, a purported leader of an al-Qaeda branch in Africa, Abu Hafs al-Sudani, claimed responsibility for the slaying, saying that Taha had insulted the Prophet. Some questioned the authenticity of the claim.

Zuhayr al-Sarraj, a columnist for the private daily Al-Sahafa, was arrested by Sudanese security forces and held for 60 hours at Kober jail in Khartoum on January 3, a source at the paper told CPJ. Al-Sarraj was charged by the national security prosecutor with "insulting the president" in connection with a column questioning the president's performance. Charges were pending.

Riot police beat three journalists – Imam Abdelbagi al-Khidir, a reporter for the private daily Akhir Lahza; Maha Mabruk, an intern for the paper; and Safa al-Salih, a correspondent for the BBC Arabic service – covering an August 30 demonstration in Khartoum about economic hardship. Al-Hindi Izzedine, Akhir Lahza's deputy editor, told CPJ that the three were held for about two hours at the central police station until their press credentials were verified.

On September 18, Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha announced the end of a wave of censorship against Khartoum papers. Seven private Arabic-language dailies – Al-Ayam, Al-Adwoaa, Al-Sudani, Alwan, Al-Sahafa, Ray-al-Shaab, and Al-Watan – were censored or confiscated beginning September 9. Authorities told editors that the issues were censored to avoid compromising an investigation into the murder of Al-Wifaq's Taha. Local journalists said the censored editions carried articles about the lack of democratic transformation and the suppression of demonstrations against fuel and sugar price increases.

Abu Obeida Abdallah, a reporter for the pro-government daily Al-Ra'y al-Aam, was released on October 15 after being held incommunicado and without charge for more than two weeks by security forces. Reuters said that sources reported different reasons for the detention. Kamal Hassan Bakhiet, the paper's editor-in-chief, said he believed Abdallah was questioned as part of the Taha murder investigation. Abdallah may have had telephone contact with someone state security suspected in the slaying, he told the news agency.

Sa'd al-Din Hassan-Abdallah, correspondent for the satellite channel Al-Arabiya, told CPJ he was arrested by security forces in Khartoum on October 15, questioned for several hours, and had his laptop confiscated. Hassan-Abdallah's arrest followed the broadcast of a report on the forced relocation of residents in the Amri region, 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Khartoum, where the government is building the Merowe High Dam. He was summoned on October 17 and October 19 for further questioning, he told CPJ. He later stopped working under pressure from the pro-government Press and Publications Council.


Killed in 2006 in Sudan

Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, Al-Wifaq, September 6, 2006, Khartoum

Masked gunmen bundled Taha, editor-in-chief of the private daily Al-Wifaq, into a car outside his home in east Khartoum late on September 5. Police found his severed head next to his body in an area south of the capital the following day. His hands and feet were bound, according to a CPJ source and news reports.

Taha had angered Islamists by running an article about the Prophet Muhammad. He had also written critically about the political opposition and armed groups in Sudan's western Darfur region, according to press reports. No group claimed responsibility for the killing, Reuters reported.

Taha, 50, was an Islamist and former member of the National Islamic Front. But in May 2005, he was detained for several days, fined 8 million Sudanese pounds (US$3,200), and his paper was closed for three months after he offended the country's powerful Islamists by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrators outside the courthouse demanded he be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Sudan is religiously conservative and penalizes blasphemy and insulting Islam with the death penalty.

Six months before the slaying, unidentified assailants set fire to the offices of Al-Wifaq, badly damaging the building. The perpetrators were never identified, a CPJ source said.

Several Sudanese journalists gathered at the Khartoum morgue to protest the murder and demand government protection for the press. The Arabic-language satellite news channel Al-Jazeera said Taha had fought many battles with the government and opposition parties over his writings and had made many political enemies.

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