- The government of Sudan has resumed the practice of pre-print censorship of the national press, human rights groups inform. Sudanese editors had also been warned against discussing the grotesque murder of editor Mohamed Taha, who was found beheaded outside Khartoum last week. There are concerns government may obstruct investigations into the killing. Meanwhile, an obscure Islamist group claims responsibility of the murder.
According to the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), "pre-print censorship has resumed in Sudan despite constitutional guarantees for the respect of freedom of expression and the media." Over the past week, teams of security officers had reportedly toured print and newsrooms in Khartoum to issue warnings and conduct pre-print inspections of newspapers in order to censor media coverage of recent events.
On the evening of 6 September, a group of security officers reportedly toured newspaper print rooms and ordered newspapers to refrain from publishing any information on police brutality, mass arrests and detentions which took during the demonstrations held in Khartoum on 30 August and 6 September. Newspapers were further warned to remove references to the large scale and number of demonstrations that were held throughout the country, including in the towns of Sinnar and Al Obeid, according to SOAT.
Over the past week, Sudanese editors have also reportedly been "warned to refrain from publicising or discussing the abduction and murder of Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed," late publisher and editor-in-chief of 'al-Wifaq' Arabic language daily newspaper, the Sudanese human rights group had been informed.
Speculations into the brutal murder of Mr Taha had so far focused on Islamist extremists, supposedly angered by an article published in the daily 'al-Wifaq' newspaper that discussed various theories of the descent of the Prophet Mohammed. The Sudanese opposition however has held that Mr Taha and his 'al-Wifaq' had angered the Khartoum regime, which could have led to his assassination.
Police investigations into Mr Taha's murder have so far proven without result, despite some early arrests in the case. It is speculated that the government censorship on the reporting of the Taha case may be based on fears that connections to the regime may be uncovered, or simply fears that the Khartoum police may stand out in a bad light due to its poor results.
Today's however, speculations into an Islamic link were given new attention as Sudanese media and foreign news agencies were sent a "statement" by a group calling itself the "African branch of al Qaeda", claiming responsibility for the killing. A certain Abu Hafs al-Sudani claimed to be the leader of the formerly unknown group and said he had given the order to kill Mr Taha because of his alleged closed ties to the government. Several sources doubt the authenticy of the statement.
The turbulent times in Sudan are nevertheless used by authorities to further gag the media. According to SOAT, at least two newspapers have been forcibly censored in the past week. Yesterday, security officers had visited the offices of 'al Sahafa' Arabic language daily newspaper and ordered that a number of articles and columns be removed prior to printing. Two articles removed related to a meeting convened by journalists to discuss the murder of Mr Taha.
On 6 September, a team of officers from the Press and Media Department of the National Security Bureau visited the print room of 'Ray al Shaap' ('Opinion of the People') Arabic language daily newspaper and ordered the removal of references to demonstrations which had been held earlier on the same day in Khartoum, according to SOAT.
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