If the flow of information and ideas in Sudan is ever to be free, Khartoum will need to change the way it treats journalists and the media, according to a new report by Sudanese journalist and press freedom advocate Abdelgadir Mohammed Abdelgadir.
His research, which documents violations of press freedom and freedom of expression that occurred between 2005 and South Sudanese independence in 2011, presents a Sudan keen to control the flow of information and frighten its critics into silence. Sudan and South Sudan both need to develop democratic state institutions that work, and a free press would play a key role in keeping the government accountable.
Yet events this week indicate that there is still work to be done if press freedom is to become a reality. On Monday, security forces confiscated the entire print edition of Alwan newspaper, which had returned to newsstands after an earlier suspension. Other newspapers, such as the Communist party's Al Midan, have been suspended for months. According to Abdelgadir, five journalists are currently banned from working in the Sudanese press.
Of even greater concern was the reported detention and physical abuse of Sudanese journalist Somaia Ibrahim Ismail Hundosa. The journalist was reportedly found on a roadside on Nov. 2, her head shaved and her body showing signs of torture. She and her family have said they believe that the country's much-feared National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were responsible for the attack.
Against a backdrop of similar media attacks, Abdelgadir was moved to document the laws, institutions and methods that restrict freedom of expression and the press. The report, entitled "Fences of Silence: Systematic Repression of Freedom of the Press, Opinion and Expression in Sudan," covers the period from 2005 to 2011 and was first released in Arabic, then later in an English translation.
Abdelgadir is a freelance journalist who has worked for Al Midan and other news outlets, and who has blogged for IPI. With this publication, he hopes "to let the world, the international community, know the everyday suffering of Sudanese journalists and journalism."
"I decided to write this book after facing a lot of abuses to my right to free expression and my right to free press," Abdelgadir told IPI by email. "During 2008 - 2010, most of my articles were censored by the NISS [National Intelligence and Security Services], my newspaper was confiscated many times and many of my colleagues were arrested - some of them subjected to torture and ill-treatment. [...] I myself have been arrested during my work."