14 June 2018

Sudan: International Press Freedom Watchdog Condemns 'NISS Offensive Against Critical Journalists'

Paris — International press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement today condemning "another offensive against critical journalists and media outlets by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)".

The statement issued by RSF headquarters in Paris, France, refers to the seizure by the NISS in the past week of entire issues of three privately-owned dailies and interrogated two journalists for covering sensitive issues.

In their latest bid to gag the press, as reported by Radio Dabanga, NISS agents confiscated the entire print-run of the daily Al-Tayyar as it came off the press on two days running, on 10 and 11 June, in response to a column by reporter Shamael al-Nur in the 9 June issue in which she said President Omar al-Bashir's resignation would benefit Sudan's economy. The NISS summoned her twice and questioned her closely. "They reminded me that there are red lines and that I should have known the president was one of them," she told RSF.

On 13 June, NISS agents seized Alyoum Altaly newspaper without reason. A week earlier, they already prevented the daily Al-Jareeda from distributing that day's issue until 11 a.m. and restricted its distribution to the capital, Khartoum. For reporting this action, Ahmed Younes, a correspondent for the London-based daily Sharq Al Awsat, was arrested and interrogated by NISS agents for several hours on 7 June. Younes told RSF he was also questioned last month over an article about divisions within the ruling party and was given "strict orders not to cover certain subjects" on pain of losing his press accreditation and being imprisoned. "They talk about 'red lines' but they don't tell us what they are and they vary according to the mood of the investigator at the time," he said.

"The NISS must stop operating as an 'editorial police' that censors journalists and systematically suppresses any critical publication, listing taboo subjects as it pleases," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk. "The survival of a free press in Sudan is at stake."

In February, RSF condemned a wave of arrests of journalists and confiscations of newspaper issues by the NISS that had begun the previous month. Issues of the Al-Jareeda and Al-Watan dailies were also seized without reason on 5 and 6 May.

Sudan is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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