Free expression violations continuing in Sudan
A recent report by Sudan Press Freedom Watch highlighted multiple press freedom violations in Sudan in recent months. The report listed 42 violations of press freedoms committed during the third quarter of 2016, with security forces responsible for 90% of the total violations. The main tactics used by the authorities included arrests, detention, summoning, court cases, and the confiscation of publications. The report also documents an increase in the numbers of journalists arrested; with authorities making 6 arrests, compared to 2 in the previous reporting period. The report also notes three press freedom violations by the the Journalism and Publications Council.
In recent months, several papers have been prohibited on different occasions. In July, the al-Jaridah newspaper was suspended twice, first for one day on 1st July, then for another 3 days on 22nd July. One month later, four other publications (Ilaf, al-Mustaquilla, al-Watan, and Awwal al-Nahar) were suspended on 14th August. Most recently, on 18th September, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) confiscated copies of al-Jareeda daily newspaper from the printing house without giving a reason. The decision is emblematic of the flagrant disregard for fundamental civic freedoms in Sudan.
The European Union (EU) has stepped up its development cooperation with the Sudanese authorities in a bid to stem the flow of refugees embarking on the perilous journey to Europe. Sudan is viewed as a vital gateway for refugees in the region and while some have welcomed the additional funding, some civil society groups worry that the move by the EU could legitimise and expedite a deterioration in civic space under the guise countering the illegal movement of people. In a positive development, on 6th October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Sudan, expressing concern with regard to the increased crackdown by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) on civil society activists. The resolution states:
'[The European Parliament] Expresses its concern with regard to the increased crackdown by the NISS on citizens who are civil society activists and calls on Sudan to release detainees immediately and unconditionally and to halt arbitrary detentions forthwith, to drop all charges that stem from their peaceful activities and to let NGOs, such as TRACK staff, their affiliates and student activists, conduct their work without fear of reprisals.'
#Sudan: trial ag 5 defenders from @TRACKs & ZORD Director resumes 10November Ask 4 their release No 2 death penaltyhttps://t.co/5AK5XB0MxP pic.twitter.com/T9rwlPvAd3— The Observatory (@OBS_defenders) November 8, 2016
As previously covered in the CIVICUS Monitor, the trial of 6 staff members from the Khartoum Centre for Training and Human Development (TRACKs) continues. The embattled oganisation has faced months of harassment from Sudanese authorities, including an office raid in March this year. During the ongoing trial, the prosecutor has claimed that at the time of a raid in 2015, TRACKS did not have a license to operate as it had expired two days previously. The lack of a valid operating license, in the prosecution's eyes, therefore legitimised the actions of Sudanese security forces. The trial continues.
Civic Space Developments