Sudan must end crackdown on journalists covering protests
NEW YORK, July 5, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Sudanese authorities should allow journalists to cover anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Over the past week, authorities have raided a media office and a journalist's home, arrested one journalist and interrogated another, deported a third journalist, and blocked at least three critical websites.
"Demonstrations are inherently newsworthy and journalists have a professional obligation to cover them," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Sudanese authorities should allow them to do so without obstruction."
Anti-government demonstrations began in the Sudanese capital on June 16 at the University of Khartoum, according to news reports. Since then, protests have spread to other parts of the country and security forces have responded harshly, dispersing demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets, arresting and beating hundreds, and attacking journalists, news reports said.
On Friday, armed security agents from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raided Agence-France Presse's Khartoum bureau, AFP reported. They arrested local journalist Talal Saad, who works for the agency part-time and is a reporter for the local daily Al-Tayyar. He had taken pictures of the demonstrations in a nearby city and brought them to the bureau, AFP said. The agents warned the AFP staff to delete Saad's photos or they would destroy the bureau's computers, the report said. The staff complied. Saad was kept in custody for almost 24 hours, according to a Twitter post by AFP Khartoum correspondent Ian Timberlake.
On June 26, Salma el-Wardany, a reporter for Bloomberg, was deported from Khartoum, that news agency reported. El-Wardany, an Egyptian who also co-founded the Egyptian daily news website Aharm Online, had been briefly detained without charge while covering anti-regime demonstrations on June 21, after which authorities had prevented her from working. On June 26 she went to the press center to renew her accreditation but instead was informed of her immediate expulsion and escorted by security agents to Khartoum airport, news reports said.
Also on June 26, NISS agents raided the home of Maha el-Senuss, a Sudanese blogger and contributor to citizen media website Global Voices Online, she reported on her Twitter account and news accounts confirmed. Two armed agents confiscated her laptop, according to the same sources. She was summoned to the NISS office for questioning the next day, when she was interrogated for 11 hours over her coverage of the protests, according to news reports. She had previously been detained for a few hours on June 21 with el-Wardany.
On June 25, Hurriyat Sudan, an online Arabic newspaper, was blocked by the National Telecommunications Commission for its coverage of the anti-regime protests, the website reported. Two other news websites, Sudaneseonline and Alrakoba, were also blocked that day, the report said. All three websites were accessible in New York today.
CPJ has documented a range of anti-press attacks in Sudan over the past several months, with authorities routinely censoring publications, suspending newspapers, and harassing critical journalists.