- The Khartoum government is criticised by human rights groups for "curbing press freedom" in the country. Many independent newspapers experience regular confiscations of their entire edition after printing is completed, a tactic that also seriously hurts the economy of these small publications.
- The Sudanese government and the National Security Agency must put an end to the confiscation or suspension of local newspapers, the human rights group Amnesty International urged in a statement released today. "The intimidation and harassment of journalists with the attempt of restricting the freedom of the press must end," the group added, condemning the confiscation of the 28 June edition of the Sudanese independent daily 'Al-Sahafa' by the country's security forces.
On the night of 27 June, members of the security forces seized around 20,000 copies of 'Al-Sahafa'. The move came in response to an opinion piece published a few days earlier at the occasion of the anniversary of the 30 June 1989 coup d'état in which the current government seized power.
Journalist Salah El Din Awooda - who wrote the opinion piece - was reportedly summoned by security forces and warned not to criticise the government. A couple of days later, security forces had ordered 'Al-Sahafa' to remove a page containing three articles from their Sunday edition.
After the wrong page was removed, security forces seized nearly 16,000 copies of parts of the paper. The articles deemed critical of the government by security forces were written by Al Haj Warraq, one of the managers of the paper, Adil El Baz, its Chief Editor and one of the daughters of Ummah party leader Sadiq El Mahdi.
Newspaper editors in Sudan frequently complain that members of the security forces waits until printing is completed to seize copies in order to impose an extra financial burden on the paper. The authorities also seized copies of 'Al Sahafa' on 6 May, which published a statement by the Foreign Affairs Minister on external interference in Darfur which he later withdrew.
Despite censorship being officially abolished in December 2001, the Sudanese security forces have since confiscated or ordered the closure of several publications while arresting many journalists.
On 3 May Yusuf al-Beshir Musa correspondent of 'Al-Sahafa' in Nyala, South Darfur, was arrested by security forces for writing an article about the destruction of Sudan air force planes and helicopters in El Fasher airport by the Sudan Liberation Army - an armed opposition group created in Darfur in February 2003 by members of sedentary groups to protest the lack of protection and the underdevelopment of the region.
Mr Musa, who has an amputated leg, was held incommunicado for three days at the security forces' offices in Nyala and was reportedly beaten with sticks on his body and the sole of his foot. On 6 May he was allowed to see a doctor, whose diagnosis described the marks of beatings on his buttocks and chest.
He was detained in Nyala General Prison charged with "spreading false information against the state" and served with a six-month detention order under Article 26 of the 1998 Emergency Act. On 24 May, he was released. His family was not allowed to visit him during his detention. A complaint about his reported torture was lodged at the office of the Sudan Attorney-General.
- Torture and imprisonment of journalists, suspension and confiscation of newspapers for fulfilling their duty to report important events, or to freely express their opinions is utterly unacceptable, Amnesty said in its statement. The group further called for all restrictions and "red lines" limiting freedom of expression and for the suspension of some newspapers to be lifted immediately.
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