27 December 2012

Sudan: Khartoum Detains Two Eritrean Opposition Journalists

Addis Ababa — Authorities in Sudan have detained two Eritrean opposition journalists according to local reporters, and opposition groups.

Abdalal Mahmoud and Haroun Adam of the Sudan-based Eritrean Centre for Media Services, have been arrested by Khartoum's intelligence services on Monday, and remain held since without charge.

The New York-based press freedom group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have expressed concern over the well-being of both men.

"We call on authorities to immediately disclose their whereabouts, legal status, and condition", CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said .

Sources said neither of the two journalists have been seen since being summoned on Monday to Sudan's National Intelligence Security Service for investigation.

An Eritrean opposition official in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune that if Khartoum deported the two journalists they could face lengthy prison terms, torture or the death penalty.

Nessradin Ahmed, spokesman for Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) called on the international community to put pressure against Sudanese government to stop forcibly returning Eritrean asylum seekers and to respect international conventions on refugees.

According to CPJ research, the Red Sea nation is the most censored country in the world, and thousands of Eritreans including dozens of journalists have fled into exile over the past decade, many of them to Sudan in protest against political oppression, to escape intimidation and arrest, as well as avoid the country's mandatory military service.

Eritrean opposition political groups are banned in neighbouring Sudan. In the past human right groups have accused Khartoum of deporting members of the Eritrean opposition.

Eritrea and Sudan have security agreements including not harboring each others rebels.

On 17 October 2011, Sudan expelled over 300 Eritreans before their cases had been to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has an office in Khartoum.

This is not the first time for Sudan to arrest journalists working for the Eritrean Centre for Media Services' website.

Last year, the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Jamal Osman Hamad, was similarly, arrested by the Sudanese government for three months after writing a critical report on Eritrea.

Hamad was arrested less than a week after Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki paid a visit to Khartoum in October 2011.

The Eritrean journalist was then held incommunicado for eight weeks, and no charges were ever filed.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' 2012 country profile on Sudan revealed that Eritrean asylum seekers are at high risk of forced return.

The French-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Eritrea last of 179 countries on its 2011-12 Press Freedom Index. Sudan stands at 170.

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