New York — Sudanese authorities should stop seizing critical newspapers and allow journalists to report freely on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Agents from Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) yesterday confiscated all copies of six newspapers: the privately owned Al-Tayar, Al-Moustagilla, al-Qarar, Al-Saiha; the socialist party's paper al-Midan; and the leftist opposition National Congress Party's Akhbar al-Watan, according to news reports.
Akhbar al-Watan's editor, Hanady al-Siddiq, told journalists in a written statement that the confiscations are likely related to the newspapers' coverage of rising food prices in the country.
"Sudanese authorities should halt their desperate attempts to silence critical coverage of widely reported events," CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington D.C. "We call on authorities to allow the media to do its job informing the public without any fear of reprisal."
NISS did not issue a statement explaining the confiscations and did not respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.
The Sudanese government's decision to devaluate the local currency and rising bread prices sparked protests across the country yesterday, which resulted in police killing at least one protester and arresting another, according to news reports.
In mid-November, the Sudanese cabinet approved a draft of an amended version of the Press and Publications Law that, if approved by the parliament, would extend the state's powers to censor journalists and publications, according to media reports. The new law would allow the state's National Press Council to order the confiscation of critical newspapers for up to 15 days instead of three days under the current law, according to news reports. CPJ has documented how the security service, in recent years, has confiscated entire print runs when a paper publishes content of which it disapproves, as a way to censor the news and force publications to incur significant financial losses.