17 June 2012

Sudan Confiscates Three Newspapers, Suspends Another

Photo: Sudan Tribune
Censoring the media.

Khartoum — The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) ordered three daily newspapers not to distribute their Sunday editions after they printed them, further escalating a campaign against press freedom ahead of plans by the authorities to end fuel subsidies.

Sudanese newspapers have been experiencing increased government crackdown in recent weeks, with one paper being suspended indefinitely and several others having their print-runs confiscated prior to distribution.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that the privately-owned dailies Al-Ahdath, Al-Watan and Al-Jarida received orders from the NISS not to distribute their print run on Sunday without giving them any reasons.

Later in the evening, the same papers received additional orders not to send their Monday's editions to printing presses before being approved by an NISS agent.

This indicates the return of the pre-publication censorship system under which Sudanese newspapers suffered in recent years before it was officially suspended in 2009 although some papers continue to receive phone instructions from the NISS not to report on certain issues.

Similarly, Al-Midan newspaper, the weekly mouthpiece of the opposition Sudanese Communist Party, has received orders not to publish for a whole month, the sources said.

Al-Jarida's editor-in-chief Osman Shinger told AFP that they had incurred "heavy financial losses" due to the fact that his paper was confiscated after being printed.

"They want to kick us out of the market. It is a bad thing for the freedom of expression in Sudan" Shinger said.

Al-Jarida already had its copies confiscated on Friday along with those of the pro-government Akhir Lahza.

Earlier on Tuesday, the NISS suspended the privately owned daily Al-Tayyar for an indefinite time without giving any reason while seizing copies of another daily, Al-Ahram Al-Yawm, after it published an interview with an official from neighboring South Sudan.

Sudan has further clenched its fist against newspapers following the eruption of border fighting with South Sudan in April this year.

Newspapers are under strict instructions by the NISS to refrain from reporting statements by South Sudanese officials or Sudanese rebel groups from the western region of Darfur or the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Failure to do comply usually results in disciplinary proceedings including confiscation or deprivation of advertisement.

The ongoing crackdown also comes as the government fears a backlash of public anger over its plans to terminate fuel subsidies as part of what officials say is an austerity package aiming to address the country's economic crisis.

The UN expert on human rights in Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, who visited the country on Thursday for the first time since his appointment, voiced concern over the use of security laws to punish the media.

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