Sudan: Rights Defending Journalist Salih Defines What It Means to Be Courageous

1 August 2019

For Journalist, human rights defender, Faisal Mohammed Salih it could be enough achievement to see his country toddling towards the rule of law after three decades of autocracy and repression.

But Salih's achievements do not stop there. He was very much celebrated by prominent rights advocacies that would often rush to campaign for his release from jail when the security routinely kept him behind the bars for speaking his mind on this or that political development. His staunch standing beside the rights of his countrymen would also often prompt the security to prevent him from travelling outside the country.

Salih is former editor of Aladwa and Alakhbar Arabic language daily newspapers. He is an active columnist in many of the country's daily newspapers. Currently he is director of Teeba Press, an NGO concerned with the training of journalists. He has a degree from Alazhar University in Cairo and a master's degree from the University of Wales, Cardiff.

Salih is active as a media training consultant for national and international organizations including UNICEF, Pan African Parliament (PAP) and for political analysis on Sudanese and African affairs, among others, for the BBC Arabic Service, and Aljazeera of Qatar.

As an activist for rights and freedom of the media, Salih maintains contacts with various international and national organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Article 19. Amongst others, Salih's publications broach the issues of cultural diversity and identity and talk about the relation between the media and human rights in the Arab World.

His struggle for human rights and freedom would also qualify him for well -deserved prestigious awards. In recognition of his unfettered criticism of the regime of Omar Albashir and speaking out on human rights abuses Salih, in 2013, won the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous Journalism. The award was conferred on Salih in a ceremony held in Washington.

The Peter Mackler Award honors reporters and editors who have demonstrated a commitment to fairness, accuracy and speaking truth to the power, and a matching commitment to asserting the right to publish or air that story in countries where independent media is under threat. Salih was the fifth recipient of the award named for the late Agence France-Presse reporter and edior Peter Mackler.

The award was begun in June 2008 to honour the memory of Mackler, who died of a heart attack that month at the age of 58.

In the same connection noted publications would stand by Salih's side, profiling his suffering and pushing for his release.

Reporters Without Borders said it is "outraged at the violence and pressure" against Salih, describing it as " a further proof of the repressive attitude towards the press on the part of the Khartoum government, whose intention is to silence all dissident voices".

protesters carry Salih on shoulders in last April 6 demonstration

Delphine Halgand, director of the Washington office of Reporters Without Borders, commended Salih for having "the courage to refuse to be silent. We give a signal to all those in Sudan, we support you," she said.

Keynote speaker Princeton Lyman, a former US envoy to Sudan, also offered praise to Salih "for his determination to deliver the truth and the news," saying this "sends a message to his country and to the world."

Those arrests and travel bans had lead Amnesty International to name him a prisoner of conscience, "imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs". The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information also once condemned his arrest, describing it as part of "the severe decline of freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the press" in Sudan.

The Doha Center For Media Freedom criticized Salih's repeated interrogations and detentions, calling them "harassment" designed "to prevent Salih from doing his work as a journalist".

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also on one occasion called on Sudanese authorities to "release Salih immediately and stop harassing him."

Front Line Defenders on one occasion called for the charges against Salih to be dropped, and stated that they appeared to be "part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment and intimidation against the human rights defender".

The International Federation Of Human Rights once called "on the Sudanese authorities to put an end to the judicial harassment faced by Mr. Salih", and launched a letter-writing campaign on his behalf.

A group of journalists held a protest on 17 May 2012 in front of the headquarters of Sudan's Press and Publication Council to show solidarity with Salih, calling for an "end to pre-censorship and restrictions against the press and journalists".

During the recent popular uprising, that eventually lead to the downfall of ousted ruler Omar Albashir, Salih was jailed for over a month, apparently to keep him away from writing which the security thought would further inflame the already tense situation. He was released shortly before Bashir's downfall on 11April.

On one occasion Salih would be incarcerated in jail for reporting and commenting on the security's manhandling of a female government opponent. On another occasion he was jailed for criticizing the government position when the latter blamed a rebel attack in South Kordofan region on assistance the insurgents received from the government of neighboring South Sudan. "They want to make of South Sudan a scapegoat for the attack," he wrote.

His motto in writing as he put it during one of his many arrests is: "I am not giving up," and again "We are not giving up."

Courage can sure beget truthfulness. Salih is always candid, speaking what he knows and feels. That has often prompted regional and international media outlets to seek his opinion when the situation in the country got murky and talk shows guests looked evasive for one reason or another. Here he would bluntly tell what he knows.

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