Sudan’s security service closes newspapers

Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) suspended Alwan, an independent daily newspaper On Friday 13 January. On Thursday and Friday morning, copies of the newspaper were confiscated post-publication, but the editor-in-chief was only informed of the suspension on Friday.

Shadia Ahmad, a journalist with Alwan, said rumours suggest that a political interview published recently has instigated this harsh decision.

“This is what we are hearing, but so far the editor-in-chief has yet to receive the official written decision to suspend the newspaper which should have clear reasons,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad added that there are probably a number of reasons for the suspension, commenting that if it was only the interview which was to blame for the suspension, the journalist who wrote the article would have faced problems, rather than the newspaper.

Alwan faces charges under article 24, the responsibilities of editors, and article 26, the responsibilities of journalists, of the 2009 Press Laws.

The newspapere was closed down for almost two years in 2008 after publishing a report on a military operation. It came back a little over a year ago.

Earlier this month, the NISS suspended Rai Al Shaab, an opposition newspaper affiliated with the Popular Congress Party (PCP). The head of the NISS stated that Rai Al Shaab violated Sudan’s ” “professional and ethical standards,”

In early 2010, Rai Al Shaab’s deputy editor-in-chief was arrested, tortured and detained for over a year and it was shut down for a year and a half.

Since it began publishing again in October 2011, it has faced constant harassment from the NISS. Two weeks ago, officers raided the newspaper’s premises, confiscated equipment and occupied the offices.

Ahmed Haroun, a Rai Al Shaab journalist, said that he was called in for questioning before the suspension.

“I was interrogated about an article I wrote in November and I was released, but I still have to go to court,” said Haroun.

Lawyer Nabil Adib says that the closure of Rai Al Shaab is illegal.

“It does not abide by the constitution since they can not suspend it before the necessary measures are taken — as in having an actual trial,” said Adib who added that the penalty came before the trial.

Commenting on the recent re-launch of Al Jareeda, an independent newspaper that was suspended by the NISS last September, Adib stated that they are unlikely to publish the same daring material they used to publish before they were shut down.

In recent years, two decisions were instrumental in the new wave of crackdowns on press freedoms in Sudan. Firstly, the controversial 2009 press laws which allow the state to intervene in issues of national security; second, in 2010 the NISS was given many immunities and rights under the 2010 National Security Act. Through this act, the NISS is allowed to take action on issues of national security which range from detaining journalists for extended periods of time, suing journalists and subjecting them to hefty fines and even closing down newspapers.

Many high-profile journalists including Amal Habbani, Faisal Mohamed Salih, Dr Nahid Al Hassan and Dr Omer Al Garrai are still facing charges and ongoing trials for writing about the rape of Safia Ishaq, a young activist who was arrested after taking part in protests and raped by three security men while in detention.

“They aim to waste your time and stop your life” Amal Habbani commented on the lengthy trial.

Last month, Dr Nahid Al Hassan, a psychiatrist working with victims of sexual assault and abuse was told in court by the judge that evidence proves that Safia Ishaq was not raped.

“You jeopardised the people’s trust in the security forces by writing about an incident that never happened,” said Mudathir Al Rashid, a judge who is known as the “journalist cases judge” for taking up notorious cases against journalists.

Reem Abbas is a Sudani freelance journalist. She is published in Inter-Press Service (IPS), IRIN news, the Women International Perspective, (the WIP), Menassat and daily Sudanese newspapers. She tweets at @ReemShawkat