18 March 2019

Sudan: Newspaper Gags Loosened As Us Congressman Visits

Khartoum — The National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) has informed some newspapers that they are allowed to publish again, prior to arrival of Congressman Gus M Bilirakis, leader of the Freedoms Bloc at the US Congress.

Following measures taken by the NISS to prevent them from publishing for more than 70 days, El Jareeda, El Midan, Akhbar El Watan, and El Tayyar will be accessible to readers.

The statement said that "other procedures" will be put in place for El Jareeda newspaper, which has been subject to prior corrections and approval by the security service since December 2018.

Editor-in-chief of El Tayyar is still being detained incommunicado.

The Sudanese Journalists Network said in a statement on Sunday that dozens of journalists, opinion writers, media professionals, and correspondents of news agencies and satellite channels are still banned from writing and speaking on television and radio, while others have lost their jobs arbitrarily.

According to the statement, this decision is "a sign to the US Congressman currently visiting Khartoum, that it guarantees freedom of expression".

Congressman Bilirakis arrived in Khartoum on Saturday for a three-day visit. In a press statement made on Sunday, Bilirakis, whose delegation represents the Freedoms Bloc, rather than the US Congress itself, said that he had interviewed journalists, civil society leaders, businesses, opposition parties, detainees, and government officials.

In talks with the director general of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salah Abdallah Gosh, told Bilirakis that recent presidential decisions were taken "to preserve the country's national security and the cohesion of the home front." Gosh said that the demonstrations in the country are "legitimate according to the law and the Constitution," but the role of the state is to maintain the security and safety of citizens.

Time for change

On Sunday, the president of the Sudanese Congress Party, Omar El Degeir, met with Bilirakis. He stressed that while the regime diminishes, the Sudanese aspire to change. They wish for peace, democracy, and justice. "Thus, it is better for the international and regional community to stand with the wishes of the Sudanese people, because they are the legitimate source for governance," he said.

Commenting on his meetings, the Congressman said in a statement that all the parties admit that a negotiated transition is the best option to end the political crisis.

"Any negotiated peace must adhere closely to the wishes of the people of Sudan and protect human rights as they are universally accepted. What remains is each side to present realistic starting points in order to begin that dialogue," he said.

Bilirakis said he saw the economic difficulties and political tensions, and that all the Sudanese parties have realized that a "new political direction is desired," referring to ongoing demonstrations in the country calling for the step-down of President Omar Al Bashir and his regime from power, along with the Declaration of Freedom and Change which calls for transitional change.

He stressed that the government should release all those detained in the wake of recent demonstrations.

"I will bring a commitment back home to do what I can to support the Sudanese people," he said.

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