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Journalists warn Sudan’s press is under attack

Mohamed Hilali
With newspapers forced to close, journalists banned and reporters persecuted, Sudanese media professionals say that their nation’s press is in a worse state than ever.
19.10.2012  |  Khartoum
 مكان عرض الصحف في إحدى المكتبات بالخرطوم. لقد أصبحت الصحف مثل السلع البائرة وما بين وقت لوقت طويل، حتى يقف مواطن أو إثنين ليقرؤوا العناوين فقط.
مكان عرض الصحف في إحدى المكتبات بالخرطوم. لقد أصبحت الصحف مثل السلع البائرة وما بين وقت لوقت طويل، حتى يقف مواطن أو إثنين ليقرؤوا العناوين فقط.

Sudanese journalists agree that their country’s press is undergoing its gloomiest era yet.

Sudan’s press has a turbulent history, with periods of rapid development interspersed with stints of harsh official repression. But, according to media professionals, the sector is currently in a dismal state, with rampant censorship and readers who have lost faith in journalists.

Rasha Awad, September 10.
© The Niles | Mohamed Hilaly
While sport and lifestyle publications have the highest circulation, political newspapers and cultural publications are suffering from a funding vacuum, in the absence of advertising.

Meeting at a conference last month, Sudanese journalists spoke out about their difficult working environment, where censorship is ubiquitous.

Under a regime that wants to tame and muzzle the society, free press certainly will be its arch-enemy,” said journalist and political activist Rasha Awad. There are names and themes that we cannot talk about in the newspapers. We live in a difficult reality and cannot even dream of a free press.”

Download the MICT study paper                "The Sudanese press after separation -  Contested identities of journalism"

At the al-Khatim Adlan Center for Information in Khartoum, a group of senior journalists talked about the profession’s current crisis. The well-known journalist Faisal Mohamed Saleh said that the Sudanese press was, and still is, the main platform Sudan’s political movement but he noted that it was vulnerable. It is exposed to fierce attack by the ruling regime, like other civil institutions‚” he explained.

Faisal Mohamed Salah (left) addresses the press reality seminar in al-Khatim Adlan Center, September 10.
© The Niles | Mohamed Hilaly
During the recent upsurge in repression, journalists have been reportedly arrested and tortured and prevented from covering controversial themes. Meanwhile, newspapers failing to tow the party line have been closed down.

But Faisal argued that the government had acted without reference to its own laws. There is no article in the current Press and Publications Law related to censorship,” he said.

Economic factors also weigh on the press, such as the high cost of printing, buying paper and the lack of any state subsidies. Faisal complained that the government was steering advertising away from critical newspapers, pushing them to the brink of survival. The biggest and better press is now owned by the security apparatus‚” he said.

Meanwhile, trust has eroded in newspapers as a vehicle for the truth. Corruption stories covered by some newspapers often comes down to a settling of accounts by regime leaders,” Rasha said, adding that no courts investigate the alleged perpetrators of these crimes. Rasha called on journalists to rally around a single slogan: Free press or no press.”

Ziauddin Bilal, September 10.
© The Niles | Mohamed Hilaly
For his part, Osman Mirghani, editor in chief of al-Tayyar newspaper which was recently closed for no reason, said that the government considers the press a threat. He added that the security services are using a double-pronged approach, suppressing the media or managing it.

In this context, al-Sudani newspaper’s editor in chief Diya ad-Din Bilal said the recent security attack on the press is the fiercest and cruelest one”.