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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Sudan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Sudan, February 1998, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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.

The state has maintained a firm grip over the media since the June 1989 military coup that brought to power the Islamist-led regime of Lt. General Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The independent press, which flourished during the brief period of multi-party government (1986-89), was dealt a serious blow when the regime banned all privately owned publications on the day it assumed power. Although some privately owned publications eventually reappeared after submitting to government re-licensure, the prohibition on newspapers affiliated with opposition parties has continued, and many of the journalists formerly affiliated with those papers are now living in exile. The existing private press is subject to close state scrutiny of their reporting on sensitive political issues such as the country's ongoing civil conflict in southern Sudan, government corruption, and domestic unrest. Over the last eight years, the authorities have suspended or permanently closed outspoken newspapers, and meted out long-term detentions and torture to offending journalists. As a result, self-censorship is widespread.

Following a peace accord signed in April with seven rebel factions, al-Bashir said that he was prepared to tolerate a more liberal press. In an apparent sign of goodwill, the independent daily Al-Rai Al-Akher, which was closed in 1996 following a series of run-ins with authorities, was permitted to resume publication on June 23. The government also announced that it would no longer arrest or detain journalists while they are being investigated for press law violations. Amidst these developments, however, al-Bashir stressed that the press is still obligated to work within the limits of the law – a warning that criticism of the state or commentary on taboo political issues will continue to place journalists in jeopardy.

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