Since the 1989 coup that brought the Islamist-backed regime of Lt. General Omar Hassan al-Bashir to power, the press has remained under constant threat. The new military regime abruptly closed newspapers that had flourished during the brief period of multi-party government (1986-89) and imprisoned dozens of journalists for their links with the opposition press.
Authorities continue to keep a watchful eye on independent-minded journalists. They invoked the restrictive 1993 Press and Publications Law when they deemed the reporting to be too critical. In January, for example, the government used the law to revoke the license of the privately owned daily Akhar Khabar for what it described as the newspaper's repeated "exaggerations" and violations of public morality. Another private paper, the outspoken independent Al-Rai al-Akher, closed after the government revoked the license of its publisher, Dar al-Ahlah, in July. The newspaper had been hit with a two-week publication suspension in May after publishing an article on a prison riot south of the capital, Khartoum.
In December, the Sudanese parliament passed a revised press law that imposed further constraints on the press. In addition to the existing ban on coverage of the army and national security issues, the new law also prohibits reporting on the national police. Newspapers in violation of the new law risk a two-month closure or even the permanent cancellation of their operating licenses. Some positive features of the law, on the other hand, include provisions that guarantee journalists the right to protect the confidentiality of their sources and require the authorities to notify the Journalists Syndicate in cases of journalists' arrest. Given the Sudanese government's disregard for the rule of law, however, observers voice skepticism about how rigorously authorities will enforce these protective provisions.
Akhar Khabar, CENSORED
The privately owned newspaper Akhar Khabar was permanently closed down by the government's Press and Publications Council for allegedly violating professional ethics. The paper was accused of having published articles that exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Akhar Khabar was temporarily closed by the government in July 1995 for publishing an article that criticized Sudan's press law.
Osama Ghandi, Sudanese Television, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Hassan Saleh, Sudanese Television, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Ghandi and Saleh, a cameraman and a technician for state-owned Sudanese Television, were detained in February for their alleged involvement in a coup attempt by Sudanese army officers earlier in the year. Both men were prosecuted as part of a secret military court trial that convened on Aug. 21. In a Sept. 18 session, Ghandi said that his confession of involvement in the coup attempt had been coerced under torture by military intelligence agents. During the proceeding, he removed his shirt to reveal scars that he said were the result of his torture. CPJ Oct. 3 criticized the government's use of a military court to prosecute Ghandi and Saleh, who are civilians. CPJ also called on the Sudanese government to transfer their cases to a civilian court and to discard any evidence extracted under torture.
Al Rai al-Akhar, ATTACKED, CENSORED
A group of armed men stormed the offices of the privately owned daily Al-Rai al-Akhar and confiscated all 20, 000 copies of that day's edition. The attack took place one day after the newspaper reported on a prison revolt south of Khartoum that was carried out by 95 soldiers suspected of taking part in a coup d'etat. On May 20, authorities banned the paper for a two-week period.
Al-Rai al-Akhar, CENSORED
The National Press and Publications Council effectively shut down the privately owned daily Al-Rai al-Akhar and the triweekly newspaper Al-Majalis by revoking the license of their publishing house, Dar al-Ahila. The government accused Al-Rai al-Akhar of threatening security and social harmony.
Babakr Othaman, Al-Watan, IMPRISONED, MISSING
Othaman, a reporter for the Qatari daily Al-Watan, was arrested by Sudanese authorities. Othaman's colleagues believe he was arrested in relation to articles he had written about the Sudanese government. Sudanese officials maintained that Othaman's arrest and detention were unrelated to his writing and were undertaken for security reasons. On Sept. 26, CPJ wrote to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, urging him to ascertain Othaman's whereabouts and to make public the official charges, if any, against him. Othaman was released on Nov. 28.
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