(30 November 2017) The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies has documented 5 incidents of post-print censorship carried out by officials of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) against five (6 media houses in the month of November. ACJPS has also documented a two-day suspension that was imposed on Algareeda newspaper by Press and Publications Council following the publication of an article that hinted to a sexual harassment claim against a Sudanese diplomat.
Confiscation of newspapers
On 29 November 2017, NISS officials prevented the distribution of printed copies of Al-Youm Altali, Alkhir Lahza, Altayyar and Algareeda newspapers, without reasons given.
On 28 November 2017, printed copies of Alkhir Lahza, Altayyar and Algareeda newspapers were prevented from being distributed by officials from the NISS, without reasons given.
On 26 November 2017, officials from the NISS denied the distribution of Alwatan printed copies, without reasons given.
On 23 November 2017, officials from NISS prevented the distribution of printed copies of Alkhir Lahza, Algareeda and Altayyar newspapers from the printing house without giving any official reason.
The three newspapers resumed publishing and distribution on the following day 24 November 2017. While no formal reasons have been given, it is very likely that the confiscations relate to their coverage of the collapse of the Sudanese Pound against the US Dollar in recent weeks published in Algareeda and Altayyar newspaper.
On 11 November 2017, NISS officials prevented the distribution of Algareeda, Altayyar and Al Sudani without reasons given.
Post-print censorship, when a newspaper’s edition is either prevented from distribution or confiscated after being printed, causes significant financial losses to media outlets and encourages self-censorship, as editors may grow reluctant to publish articles which may lead to their editions being confiscated.
Suspension of Algareeda newspaper
On 1 November 2017, the Press and Publications Council ordered for a two day suspension against Algareeda newspaper. This suspension was issued as a penalty for a published article that hinted to a sexual harassment claim against a Sudanese diplomat in New York. The article was written by Alfatih Jabra, a columnist with Algareeda.
The Press and Publications Act 2008 empowers the Press and Publications Council to impose sanctions on licensed persons who contravene with provisions of the Act, including suspending newspapers for up to seven days. The Press and Publications Council has been viewed as a biased body that has focused more on placing punitive measures against media houses as opposed to an independent body devoid of interference, whether political or economic.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls on the Government of Sudan to end all censorship and harassment of media outlets, and fully guarantee press and media freedom as provided in Sudan’s Interim National Constitution of 2005, as well as international and regional human rights treaties to which Sudan is a state party.
In its General Comment 34 on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, the UN Human Rights Committee states that it is incompatible with right to freedom of expression and opinion to refuse to permit the publication of newspapers and other print media other than under necessary restrictions permitted by law. It further states that such circumstances may never include a ban on a particular publication unless specific content, that is not severable, can be legitimately prohibited.
In recent years, it has become a daily ritual for NISS officers to visit Khartoum’s printing houses in the early morning hours to seize print runs or prevent the distribution of morning papers without giving any reasons. Post-print censorship is routinely used by the NISS to intimidate editors from publishing on what are often referred to as ‘red line’ issues, which are issues that the authorities deem sensitive and seek to control in public debate. It is also thought to have the intended impact of causing editors to self-censor to avoid financial losses. Though the issues deemed ‘red line’ are often blurry and unclear, current themes subjected to censorship include any coverage of the armed conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states and the actions of the Sudanese Armed Forces, references to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and reports of corruption.
The NISS has increasingly sought to censor not only independent newspapers or those affiliated to opposition political parties, but also those that are traditionally supportive of or affiliated to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
A number of Sudanese laws restrict the right to peaceful expression, association and assembly, including provisions of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code and the 2009 Press and Publications Act.
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, ACJPS Executive Director: +256 779584542; Cynthia Ibale, Program Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org