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Imprisonment of three journalists and confiscation of their newspaper!

Three opposition Sudanese journalists have been sentenced, this month by a Khartoum North court to imprisonment and their newspaper was closed down.

The Sudanese authorities raided Ray Alshaab newspaper headquarters on July 16, held up the publication, confiscated properties and arrested journalists. The newspaper is allied to the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP).

Abu Bakr Alamin, Ray Alshaab newspaper deputy editor- in -chief published an article questioning the popularity of President Al Bashir among Sudanese people and casted shadows on the credibility of the April Presidential and parliamentary elections. In his opinion article, He also alleged that Iran had built a weapons factory, north of Khartoum to supply Somali and Yemeni and other insurgents in Africa and the Middle East with weapons.

Under heightened measurements, Judge Mudathir Rasheed of Khartoum North Criminal Court announced the ruling over four journalists: Abuzar Ali Alamin sentenced to five years where, Dhar, Tahir abu Jawhara, and Ashraf Abdul Aziz were sentenced to two for each. A fourth journalist Ramadan Mahjoub acquitted.

The court accused Abu Zar of undermining the regime, spying on the country, terrorism, publishing false news and violating public security. He and his colleagues were convicted according to article (50) of the Sudanese penal criminal code of 1991, which endorses undermining the constitutional order and article (66) that tackles publication of false news. Article 50 provides for a life sentence or death penalty. Alamin's lawyer appealed for leniency.

The three detained journalists are members of the (PCP), led by Dr. Alturabi who was sponsoring the sitting Islamic government since the coup d'etat in 1989. In mid 1999 a feud conflict began between Turabi and President Al Bashir who legalized the registration of the political parties the same year after being banned. Dr Turabi formed his party and led the opposition. Since then Turabi has become a guest to Sudan prisons more than five times. The last one was in past May; Just shortly before the confiscation of his PCP's newspaper and detention of its journalists.

The court has accused Ray Ash-Shaab (People’s Opinion) of undermining the constitution, Sudan's foreign ties as well as disseminating false news about Iran’s military ties with sudan and the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Gurard in one of the giant factories north of Khartoum concerned with automotive industry.

The verdict came as a surprise to journalists in print press and online media , who considered the15th May the worst day in the history of Sudanese press. Six newspapers including Alayyam, Almedan, Alsahafa, Alakhbar, Alahdath, and Ajrasss Alhuriyya temporarily suspended publication of their print editions last Saturday in solidarity with the news paper and its detained journalists.

Abu Bakr Abdel Razek PCP Judiciary Department consultant described the ruling as « a surprise that questions the Justice and Judiciary in Sudan». He said in a press conference: «this is the third time when a judge sentenced Sudanese press in case of publishing violation. The first time was in 1924 during British Colonialism, the second ruled last year when the Court of Khartoum North sentenced legal advisor Kamal Hassan Omar, from PC for six months for publication violation and news dissemination.

Abdelomneim Osman Idriss defence's lawyer told the Committtee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 16th May that the defendants would appeal, adding that the three are being held in Kober Prison in Khartoum, which is notorious for its abusive treatment of detainees.

During investigation, it was claimed that Abazar and his colleagues had been subjected to torture. A photo of him leaked to media, showed a big bruise on his right side (see the attached photo). According to Alsharq Arabic daily newspaper, Abu Zar was tortured while he was detained in the State Security Premises as well as three of his colleagues during the process of investigation. The newspaper added that he told his lawyer that three of his colleagues: Nagi Dahab, Ashraf Abdelazizand Abu Baker Al-Sammani, all held in the same building with him, also showed marks of torture.

Muna Abu Bakr, Abu Zar's wife who gave weekly account and reports on his case, on Sudanese online website, confirmed the validity of this information and gave more details on the mistreatment to which her husband was exposed to. Ms Abu Bakr in her online regular reports and video shootings on youtube, recalled that once while her husband was taken to the clinic, he was brutally beaten in front of the doctor until he fell unconscious. While he was gradually regaining consciousness he was forced to sign a document of which he was unaware of the content.

She went on to say that after repeated requests and intense pressure from the family Abu Zar was assessed by a doctor who reported that there was a large amount of blood in his urine, possible damage to his left kidney, bruises all over his body and significant damage to his bowels. Muna also doubted possible damage to her husband's legs, because he couldn’t walk properly, as she reported.

IHRC urged the Sudanese government to stop resorting to violence and torturing detainees and "abide by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." It also called on the Sudanese authorities to secure journalists prisoners the right to a fair trial articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Reporters without borders condemned the sentence and described as an effort to intimidate opposition: “These three journalists have been convicted just for doing their job,” Reporters without Borders said. “These verdicts are unjust and are clearly aimed at silencing the opposition press in Sudan. We firmly condemn this kind of intimidation.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Sudanese authorities to overturn convictions and prison sentences against three journalists working for Rai al-Shaab confiscate newspaper. “We call on the appeals court to overturn this politicized verdict and to reopen the newspaper”. “It is outrageous that the Sudanese authorities penalize opposition journalists and close their newspaper. This practice needs to stop.” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney to the CPJ website.

Worth mentioning that during the court’s hearing, the first defendants’ defense team withdrew from the hearing following the prosecution and judges’ rejection of three out of four witnesses who were summoned by the defense to corroborate testimonies, on the ground that they were opposition. Rejected witnesses included Yasser Arman, Deputy Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) , Muzdalifa Mohamed Othman, and Chief News Editor of al-Hadath newspaper and Ali, Director of Ceremonies at the Presidential Palace. Faisal Mohamed Saleh, was the only Media Expert witness allowed to testimony.

Should be noted here the return of prior publication surveillance to Sudan immediately following the end of the elections that ever took occurred in two decades and promised democracy. It became a normal phenomenon that newspapers cancel publication because of the many pages been snatched at the last moments by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) who assigned this mission.
In Sudan there are 50 newspapers with an average of 500 daily sold copies .Newspaper circulation rates are currently experiencing a downward trend and printing industry no longer an attractive industry.

On july 6 Sudan announced that it has indefinitely suspended Alinitbaha Arabic daily newspaper owned by Al Tayeb Mustafa, an uncle to president Omar Hassan AlBashir on the ground that it encourages secessionists tendencies and undermine the unity of the country. Worth mentioning the newspaper was established in 2007 and had a clear cut vision of separating the south of Sudan from the north.

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Comments

Thanks for this comprehensive post, we vehemently condemn any inhumane torture or punishment and unnecessary sentencing of journalists or anyone working for humanity...enough is enough! Let us face facts, it looks as if the security of journalists is no longer guaranteed now in the world simply because we have decided to remain silent for so long.....it was like the case of Paul or one of the earliest disciples in the Bible, when the persecutors saw that the church remain silent, they decided to lay hands on the rest of the disciples...and persecution continued.

The issue is that we must report the cases as they are, the world must hear what is happening because the poor do not have the voice of their own, they cannot screamed and be heard, except someone act as a microphone to speak on their behalf......and fried yam of these African states now has too much of dried pepper that makes it 'unswallowable'....early in the week, 4 Nigerian journalists were kidnapped and were kept in the thick forest for 7 days, in an unhygienic condition, they were molested and all their personal belongings stolen, even their shoes, they walked barefooted for days without food in the remote forest.....there are noise everywhere now but in no time all these will become the normal history....all we hear now is you better thank God they came out alive!

Nobody is discussing compensation or searching and prosecuting the kidnappers, the funniest part of the story is that 3 monarchs have been dethroned over the case, so our leaders are involved in this kidnapping business. If not for the media, by now Africa would have been deep depth from sit tight leaders and useless leaders with religious bigotry and filled with corruption eat and die attitude.

If we will not relent, we will reach the promised land. We are not among those who will work with fear and trembling

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Thanks

Dearest Olutosin,

Thank you so much for passing, reading and for this rich comment. As you know the situation in our countries is similar; intimidating opponents and silencing them, especially when they are journalists is one of the government priorities. Ironically, these measures against journalists and newspapers are taken after the Islamic government winning general elections and allegedly claim turning towards democracy. IMAGINE!

Love,

Halima

Starland's picture

Merci beaucoup

I guess news reporting works the best when those in power like what you have to say. Otherwise, your out. Many, many blessings on those news people. It's hard to understand the need for torture to silence them. Must be fear that they are not willing to be silenced. Well, thank you so much for posting this most important article. I am most grateful you have done so and most saddened for the people in this situation. Another example of insanity, I think.

Love
K-lee 3709

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Monde fou

Dearest K-lee,

Thanks so much for sharing this comment. In my country, as in most third world countries, it is difficult to say journalism is a safe industry and journalists are free to report literally and professionally. In fact it is a very dangerous profession. So if officials aren't content with reporting, this may mean more than losing one's job, newspaper stability.
C'est un monde fou! tout a fait fou!

Merci beaucoup,

Halima

Thank you Halima for highlighting what journalists go through at the hands of our political leaders. The idea of governments stifling the media and torturing journalists is rampant here in Africa.. Those in power will always want one to report in their favor even when what they are doing is detastable!!!!!! and I think it is a high time voices that care took action. What about naming and ashaming those involved in this malpractice globally?

I remember recently an outspoken reporter/activist from one of the media houses in Kenya called the legislators 'fools' because they were threatening to frustrate the house business if the Minister for Finance refused to table the bill in favor of hiking their salaries to a million + shillings. Guess what the Speaker of the National Assembly did- Banned this reporter and the media house she works for from entering parliament when in session. What wrong had she done?-reminded the parliamentarians of their naivity.

To me this is a high level of insanity. Those in power know that knowledge is power and they do everything possible under their mandate to suppress, oppress and intimidate the journalists who unearth the evils committed by our greedy leaders.

Bravo journalists, don't give up. This only makes you grow strong.This is a calling not for the faint hearted.

United we stand.

Anne Khadudu Baraza,
CEO- Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme
+254 729880651/ 020 2602803
!27-00502 Karen, Nairobi Kenya

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Dangerous profession

Dearest Anne,

As you said officials know that knowledge is a power that is not in their favor. So they first opt for depriving their people of this power and its elements. Access to knowledge will always be denied because it deprives them ruling from birth to death!
Not only that, Newspapers that are committed to professionalism and bias to reality only will be fought by all means and will not last long in the markets. This can be done throughout depriving the newspapers of ads. You know the importance of ads to the continuity of a newspaper and guarantee availability to readers..It is as air to humans! Not only that the With the return of surveillance prior to publishing and the tighten control of security, talking about the case of my homeland, the inability of the newspaper editing a number of copies every now and then, has become a familiar phenomenon. Because the security agents, who have their official recognition, intervene at the last minute and delete several pages, or half of the edition.
Secondly, journalists themselves become targets for the authority and security. A slightest conflict with officials will send them either behind bars or kick him to the street…

Love,

Halima

JaniceW's picture

Impunity for government officials

Since the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2010, it seems that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has stepped up its campaign to clampdown on journalist's criticizing the government. It is bad enough that newspapers expressing opposition to policies have been closed, forced to stop printing, or have stopped printing themselves in protest against censorship but the arbitrary arrest, detainment and abuse of journalists through violence and intimidation is a clear violation of human rights and freedom of expression.

Thank you Halima for bringing this to our attention and please keep us posted as Sudan leads up to the referendum. Best wishes,
Janice

Dearest Janice,
Thank you so much for sharing this comment.

Unfortunately, the Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has taken measurements to clampdown journalists before the April Presidential and Parliamentary elections. But they have tighten their grip over press and pressmen following the winning of election and formation of the new government headed by President Al Bashir.

It is quite evident that the democratic transformation and the promises that have been made ahead of the elections turned out to be just false promises. Instead the government becomes more stringent than ever.
for example last week the government terminated the british Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Radio FM Arabic broadcasting in four majour cities in northern Sudan. The decision came in response to violating Sudanese laws, when the government confiscated unauthorized broadcasting devise which had been in a diplomatic consignment.

As for continue writing, I will do my best to cover many of the current events, hoping not to face difficulties that may affect what I intend to do during my annual vacation I plan to spend in Khartoum.

Love,

Halima

JaniceW's picture

Wishing you well

Halima,
I am so glad you are able to take a vacation and I wish you a very relaxing time in Khartoum. Thank you for keeping us informed about Sudan and I look forward to you joining us for the Board and Staff retreat. Best wishes,
Janice

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