Crackdown on Media continues and 100 protestors detained in Sudan
On 20th June, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated the daily newspaper Akhir Lahza, allegedly for reporting on organisational changes within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). On 26th June, Sudanese security agents also confiscated the print run of EL Asyad daily sports newspaper.
The authorities recent interference with independent media outlets publishing politically sensitive stories is part of a consistent trend in Sudan. The government’s 'red line policy' essentially means that Sudanese media are not allowed to report on certain issues. On 28th June, members of parliament warned of the serious impact of electronic media on national unity and greater values. The information minister Ahmed Bilal Osman accused electronic media of publishing rumours without taking responsibility for them. He also announced that the Ministry is establishing a special center to monitor electronic media and websites. This comes at a time when journalists are already concerned about a pending journalism law which may further restrict their activities.
Sudanese authorities, including the National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) and the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) continue to restrict the operation and mandates of civil society organisations. Recent violations of freedom of association include the forced closure of some CSOs, refusal of permission to register and the cancellation of activities. A CSO called Al-Zarga continues to face delays with the annual renewal of their registration. The organisation has been seeking renewal of their registration license since March 2015 and is yet to receive information on their status from the HAC. Another organisation, Somiet, also continues to face delays with the annual renewal of their registration. In order for its registration to be renewed, the HAC requested that the organisation remove the word Human Rights from its name. Somiet was left with no option but to comply with the authorities' demands.
Even Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs) struggle in this restrictive environment. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to renew the annual stay permit of Mr. Ivo Freijsen, the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). During a forum organised by the Ministry of Information, the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Sudan indicated that the Government of Sudan will not be renewing the stay permit, alleging that it had failed to cooperate with the HAC and had inaccurately reported statistics regarding displacement and famine in the country.
Moreover, in March 2016, Sudan became the first country to prevent Sudanese civil society representatives from attending a Universal Periodic Review preparatory session in Geneva. Authorities have also recently harassed human rights activists and civil society leaders through the court system. On 18th July, the Khartoum Central Criminal Court postponed the trial of human rights defenders Adil Bakheit and Khalafalla Mukhtar Alafif to 1st August. They are charged with seven criminal offences including 'waging war against the State'. Khalafalla has been held at the Prosecutor’s Office in Khartoum since 22nd May. In a separate incident, Sudanese authorities arrested two activists on 18th July who oppose the establishment of dam projects in in Sudan's Northern State. Hussein Abdu Hussein, a Sudanese activist, is in custody for allowing residents of the area to hold a symposium on his premises. The symposium discussed the negative impact of the dam construction and environmental issues arising from gold mining in Northern State.
On 7th July, the families of students from Khartoum University organised a sit-in to protest against the detention of their children, who have been held since May this year. Earlier this year, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested dozens of students during a demonstration against the proposed plans to sell the university premises.
In a separate incident, sit-ins were organised during the first week of July in the eastern city of El Gedaref. These protests called for improvements in the provision of services following floods during the rainy season. Security forces detained more than a hundred residents and threatened to prosecute them under a new anti-demonstration law which carried a maximum sentence of ten years in prion for the offence of rioting.
Earlier this year, National Security agents stopped an honoring ceremony organised by the Women Initiatives Group for Awadiya Mahmoud Kuku at Khartoum Family Club. Although organisers had obtained all the necessary permits, security forces stopped the event. Awadiya has been internationally recognised as one of the bravest women in the world as a result of her efforts to promote peace, justice, human rights and gender equality in the face of huge risks.
On 8th July, heavily armed security forces broke into the home of Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Hadi Abdul Latif, a prominent member of the committee opposing Kajbar dam in his village. Security forces and arrested him and are reported to have harassed his family. While being held in detention by the authorities, a large gathering from the community congregated and forcefully demanded his release. The incident coincided with the ninth anniversary of the martyrs of Kajbar Dam in Northern State.