Repeated confiscation of newspapers prompts protests from journalists in Sudan
On 29th December, Sudanese journalists protested in front of the National Council for Press and Publications, calling on the government to respect the constitutionally-protected rights to a free press and free speech. The protest was held after the security forces had removed Al-Jareeda newspaper from circulation. As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the Sudanese authorities have a well documented penchant for removing newspapers from circulation when their contents are unfavourable to the government. Copies of the paper were repeatedly confiscated in December as allegations of interference from authorities emerged over the commissioning of articles.
Coordinator of the group Journalists for Human Rights Faisal Elbagir also drew attention to the financial implications for media outlets when authorities arbitrarily confiscate newspapers from circulation. The loss in revenue from repeated confiscations has had a serious effect on the financial resources of many independent news outlets in Sudan. Elbagir also pointed out that such unwarranted interference from authorities contravenes Sudan's domestic and international commitments on freedom of expression. He stated:
'It is against the law. It is against the constitution of Sudan, because freedom of expression and freedom of press is granted by the constitution...But … the National [Intelligence and] Security Service in Sudan, they are beyond the laws and don't care about respecting [the] right of freedom of expression.'
During the protest, security agents arrested an Al Jazeera reporter, after he was caught recording the protest. After being forced to delete the footage, the journalist was released.
On 12th December, Sudanese and international civil society groups urged mandate holders of UN Special Procedures to call on the Government of Sudan to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against ten staff members and affiliates of the Centre for Training and Human Development (TRACKs). As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the persecution of TRACKs, a local civic group which provides training on a range of topics from IT to human rights, has attracted international condemnation with many fearing that it is politically motivated. The continued detention of activists affiliated to the organisation is of particular concern. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. The joint letter urged UN representatives to:
- Publicly call on the Government of Sudan to immediately and unconditionally release the ten TRACKs staff and affiliates and drop all charges against them;
- Publicly call on the government to release Mr Mukhtar, Mr. Hamdan and Mr Adam pending trial and to guarantee them the right to an impartial, independent, and competent tribunal as well as their other fair trial rights at all times;
- Publicly declare that the detentions constitute a violation of the right to freedom of expression, as protected by Article 9 of the African Charter, Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the protection enjoyed by detainees as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
On 12th January, prominent human rights defender Amin Mekki Medani was banned from travelling to Cairo where he was scheduled to undergo surgery. Medani and his family were stopped at Khartoum airport where authorities prevented their passage through immigration and subsequently confiscated their passports. He was later summoned to the office of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) for interrogation. Medani has suffered continued harassment from Sudanese authorities as a result of his activism.
On 7th December, another prominent HRD was detained by security forces. Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his driver, Adam El Sheikh Mukhtar, are currently detained incommunicado by the country’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Both men are being held at NISS headquarters without charge or access to their families and lawyers.