The Khartoum government’s crackdown on free expression continues. Abdelgadir Mohammed Abdelgadir reports
On 25 July the Khartoum Media Court, headed by the judge Mudathir Al-Rashid, sentenced the female journalist Amal Habani to pay a fine of 2000 Sudanese Pounds (about 660 US dollars). If she did not pay this sum, she knew she would face one month of imprisonment. Amal Habani decided to be sent to prison rather than pay the fine, and she has now been sent to Omdurman Women’s Prison.
Habani was one of the journalists who reported on the case of Safia Ishaq, a Sudanese artist and member of the Grifina Youth Movement (part of 30 January youth movement). Ishaq publicly reported last February that she had been raped by three security agents in Khartoum following her arrest on 13 February.
Hbani is the second female journalist to have been sent to the prison by the same court and the same judge, on the same charges. The sanctions imposed on these journalists show how difficult the situation is when it comes to freedom of expression.
When Habani chose to be imprisoned rather than pay a fine, she followed the example of Lubna Hussein. Hussein is another Sudanese journalist, who refused to pay a fine imposed on her for wearing trousers.
The Sudanese government has created a list of “red lines” which journalists are not allowed to cross. The long list of prohibited issues includes national security and matters which are “sensitive to public morality.” It also precludes reporting on human rights violations and corruption. This list does not have any official mandate, but reporters who refuse to comply risk being punished by the security forces. Journalists face a difficult conflict between following these orders and informing the public. Increasingly, they seem to be choosing the latter option.
When South Sudan gained its independence, the situation in the North grew worse. The Sudanese government continues to violate countless human rights without any concern for national or international law. This begs the ominous question: What will happen next?