Sudan must end clampdown on media

The Sudanese authorities must halt the ongoing harassment of independent media, Amnesty International said after a prominent journalist was re-arrested and copies of a national newspaper seized in Khartoum on Tuesday.Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a columnist with several national newspapers who has reported in 2011 on the alleged rape of an activist by National Security Service (NSS) agents, is currently being held by the NSS.Meanwhile copies of national newspaper al-Midan were confiscated at the printing press today for the fifth time in five weeks, putting the publication’s financial future in jeopardy.“The Sudanese government is continuing its relentless harassment of journalists and editors who dare to do their job,” said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher.“The authorities are deploying a wide array of coercive measures against individuals and media organizations to discourage or prevent independent reporting and critical comment.”“The re-arrest of Faisal Saleh is a smack in the face for free speech and the Sudanese authorities must ensure that the NSS ends these constant attempts to silence any form of dissent.”Faisal Saleh, who is also head of Teeba Press, an NGO which trains journalists, was summoned to the NSS offices every day for nearly two weeks in April and May. He was made to wait all day for an interrogation that never took place, without being provided with food or water. After subsequently refusing to attend, he was re-arrested twice. He now faces new and vague charges of “crimes against the state”, in addition to previous charges of defamation for reporting in March last year that activist Safia Ishaag was allegedly raped by NSS agents. Amnesty International considers Faisal Mohammed Saleh to be a Prisoner of Conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his beliefs. Meanwhile, journalist Haidar al Kashifi from the Al-Sahafa newspaper, was reportedly banned from writing on 6 May on orders of the NSS.Newspapers similarly face constant obstacles as a result of NSS interference. Editors face great pressure from NSS agents, with whom they must remain in daily contact.The NSS has repeatedly threatened editors with dismissal or cancellation of their newspaper’s license in a bid to coerce media coverage of events.Newspapers also face direct forms of censorship, with NSS agents frequently banning editors from publishing articles or opinion pieces prior to publication.The NSS on occasions seizes the entire print run of newspapers in a move that puts the paper under extreme commercial pressure. Six issues of national daily al-Jareeda (‘The Newspaper’) have been seized since the beginning of April while the independent daily al-Tayyar (‘The Current’) also allegedly faced confiscation on 8 May.