5 December 2012

Sudan: Al Midan - '84 Newspapers Prevented From Publishing This Year'

Khartoum — A statement published by Al Midan newspaper claims that the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have prevented approximately 84 newspapers from publishing since 3 May 2012. The report said that the prohibition has caused 'substantial material losses' as well as 'political damage' to the newspapers.

Al Midan itself has been subjected to imposed censorship and 'serious abuse' by the NISS since 2007. The security services arrested 11 of its employees in February 2011. They were kept in detention but no charges were pressed against them. Al Midan said that the actions of the NISS to weaken the 'other point of view' are a clear violation of the country's interim constitution and all international conventions and charters signed by Sudan.

The statement said Al Midan repeatedly addressed the National Press and Publications Council, many other involved parties and even the president of the NISS about the 'abuse', but to no avail.

Al Midan said it sent a memorandum to the National Commission for Human Rights, asking to perform its duties and stop the violations of press freedom.

Revised press law

Moreover, Afaf Taour, chairman of the parliamentary media committee revealed that sanctions included in the revised press law permit the court to impose penalties on newspapers as well as to suspend the newspaper's license temporarily.

The chairman added that the revisions enable the Council to impose sanctions after repeated violations and to suspend editors, publishers and journalists. Also, it can shut down the newspaper for a period of 10 days and compel it to publish an apology or the Council's resolution. Taour continued that other sanctions may include suspension or revoking of the press license.

Taour said that the head of parliament had approved the draft law and appointed a committee consisting of a number of parliamentary commissions such as legislation, justice, security and defense to discuss the draft.

'New law is alarming'

For his part, Farouk Abu Issa, one of the leaders of the National Consensus forces, a coalition of the country's main opposition parties claims that the draft puts more restrictions on the press and sets limits to freedom of expression.

In response to Afaf Taour's announcements, Abu Issa commented that the characteristics of the new law are 'alarming' and 'restricts freedom of expression, even though it is a constitutional right'.

Abu Issa, who is also a prominent lawyer, claims that journalists are being prosecuted, oppressed and displaced. He stated that the restrictions reached the point where journalists can no longer practice their profession, which he described as an 'unacceptable situation'.

Besides, the lawyer said that "nonetheless, the government wants to impose more sanctions and restrictions, not only on journalists and newspapers but on printing houses. He stressed the rejection of the new law along with its emphasis on uniting forces of national consensus with all its factions and to coordinate with newspapers and journalists to resist the law revision.

Lastly, Abu Issa said: "the government will not be satisfied until all opposition newspapers like 'Sawt al-Umma', 'Rai al-Sha'ab' and Al-Midan have been closed down, and yet they continue to speak about democracy and pluralism."

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