Sudan: COVID-19 - 2020 Khartoum International Book Fair Shelved

Khartoum — The 16th edition of the Khartoum International Book Fair, that was scheduled to take place in the Sudanese capital in October, has been suspended in line with Covid-19 precautionary measures.

The Ministry of Culture and Information issued a decree on Wednesday suspending the book fair "in accordance with the general directives issued by the Higher Committee for Health Emergencies".

Many authors and publishers will be disappointed as, the annual book fair that attracts exhibitors from around the world has been a showcase for the re-emergence of Sudanese culture and literature. The 15th edition last year was hailed as the first 'free book fair' after the overthrow of the oppressive and restrictive 30-year dictatorship of the Omar Al Bashir regime.

Last year, Sudan's Minister of Culture and Information, Feisal Mohamed Salih assured that there would be no restrictions on political books, as the book fair "represents continuation of a long and valuable march... Sudan is laying ground for a modern democratic state and experiencing genuine change embedded in full openness in the fair."

The Salih lauded the extent of external participation in last year's fair that was held "to reaffirm stability of Sudan... cultural life is a top priority" with wide participation in programmes discussing all aspects of life.

Censorship lifted

Previous sessions of the fair held during the dictatorship were routinely marred by books being banned from publication, or seized from exhibit tables by government authorities.

Prior to the 14th fair in October 2018, the regime's Ministry of Culture ordered participating Sudanese publishing houses to submit their publications for pre-approval.

In previous years, security officials seized publications after the opening of the event.

At the 2016 Khartoum Book Fair, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and several Arabic novels were banned by the Al Bashir security apparatus.

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