Sudan: media clampdown ahead of elections - new briefing
At least 16 newspapers have had editions confiscated on 42 different occasions
Some 21 journalists interrogated by security officials
In the lead up to Sudan’s general elections later this month (13 April), Amnesty International is warning that an intensified clampdown is threatening the independence and freedom of action of the media, civil society organisations and members of the political opposition as it launched a new briefing today (Thurs 2 April).
The clampdown has been exacerbated by recent constitutional amendments giving sweeping powers to the Sudanese security services (the National Intelligence and Security Service). Sudanese officials have defended the confiscation of newspapers on grounds of national security.
Since January, at least 16 newspapers have had editions of their publications confiscated, on 42 different occasions, by Sudan’s security services. Some 21 journalists have been interrogated by security officials. Three leading civil society organisations have been shut down, and at least five others are under imminent threat of closure. Meanwhile, on 16 February, the Sudanese security services confiscated editions of 14 newspapers from printers without any lawful justification.
Meanwhile, Al Midan newspaper, which is affiliated to the Sudanese Communist Party, has already had its editions confiscated at least 20 times this year. Madeeha Abdallah, Al Midan’s editor, is currently facing charges under the Penal Code Act and could face the death penalty if she is convicted.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa Michelle Kagari said:
“As Sudan enters elections, the security services’ control of what the media should say and what civil society can comment or act on is deeply disturbing. Their human rights violations, now at unprecedented levels, only serve to quell dissent and criticism of the National Congress Party government in the run up to April’s general elections.
“The current patterns of violations highlight that repression is becoming entrenched in Sudan. It is high time that the African Union, the Arab League, the UN and key member states stepped up pressure on Sudan to respect its international and regional human rights obligations and commitments.”
Civil society clampdown
Sudan’s security forces have intensified their crackdown on civil society this year. At least a dozen civil society groups believe that their activities are being closely monitored and have received threats, intimidation and harassment from both the Humanitarian Aid Commission – a regulatory body – and the security services.
Al Sadiq Hassan, from the Darfur Bar Association, told Amnesty: “This is the worst time for civil society in Sudan; they are facing a systematic attack from the regime on their freedom of expression and assembly. After the recent constitutional amendments, the level of harassment has increased.”
- Entrenched Repression