Sudan: Secret police target Communist Party press

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September 15, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed alarm at the growing censorship of opposition newspapers in Sudan. The regime's secret police, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), halted the distribution of four different opposition newspapers without cause.

In particular, the NISS has targeted the publication of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP). The September 4, 6, 8, 11 and 13 print runs of the Sudanese Communist Party twice-weekly Al-Midan have been confiscated. On September 4 and 8, two other opposition newspapers, Al-Jarida and Al-Sahafa, respectively, were confiscated by authorities. On September 13, opposition paper Akhbar al-Youm was seized.

"The repeated confiscation of these newspapers' entire print runs is an insidious form of censorship designed to put the publications out of business", said Committee to Protect Journalists deputy director Robert Mahoney. "The people of Sudan are entitled to hear alternative voices. The government must respect this right and allow these papers to publish without interference."

CPJ has reported on previous newspaper confiscations in Sudan, an ongoing repressive tactic employed by the government. In each case, the authorities wait for the newspapers to be printed and then confiscate the copies before they are distributed, thus inflicting maximum financial losses.

The SCP said that no reason or justification was given for the confiscation of Al-Midan, which occurred after the paper was printed. In the four months prior to September 4 seizure, Al-Midan had been conficated another six times. The SCP condemned the heavy financial losses it has incurred as a result.

The SCP's newspaper hit out at the National Council of Press and Publication, the official regulator of print media, and the government-controlled Union of Sudanese journalists for their failure to respond to such violations of democratic rights by the security apparatus.

“As much as we condemn the recurring behaviour of the NISS towards our paper and others, we also condemn the negative attitude of the press council and union of journalists towards what is happening and we consider it as part of a wider conspiracy targeting newspapers and journalists in order to further restrict journalistic work.” Sudan’s constitution guarantees freedom of press but newspapers are frequently subjected to a variety of measures to prevent them from reporting on issues deemed sensitive by the authorities.

These measures include direct pre-publication censorship, confiscation, legal proceedings and the denial of state adverts.

The Network of Sudanese Journalists has condemned the confiscation of Al-Midan and Al-Jaridah has a violation of Sudan’s interim constitution and international accords ratified by the country. The group said that NISS’s continuing confiscation of papers was a dangerous curtailing the freedom of expression and of restricting and weakening the press.