The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its concerns over the increase in press freedom violations in Sudan since the recent elections after the arrest of four journalists and the closure of Rai-Alshab daily newspaper. Taban Bonifacio, online journalist for the Sudanvote.com website was arrested in South Sudan on 23 April while three more journalists of Rai-Alshab newspaper were detained on Sunday 16 May 2010.
“The situation of press freedom in Sudan has deteriorated since the last elections,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office. “We call on all actors to remain calm and initiate a dialogue in order to let the media do their work freely.”
According to media In South Sudan, Bonifacio was arrested since 23April, allegedly for having filmed violence which marred the recent elections in Unity State, where five people were killed during clashes between the supporters of two candidates, Angelina Teny the wife of the South Sudan’s high ranking official Dr. Riek Machar and Taban Deng Gai.
The authorities have also closed the, Rai-Alshab newspaper belonging to the Popular Congress Party after it reported on 14 May 2010 that the Sudanese Government was giving support to Houthi rebels in Yemen. This report was later dismissed by the ruling party as false and a scheme by the Popular Congress Party to sour the relations between the American and Sudanese governments.
On Sunday 16 May 2010, the Sudanese Security Service moved in and closed the Rai-Alshab Arabic daily and arrested three journalists including the deputy editor, Abuzerr Ali Al-Amin, before confiscating all equipment at the paper’s premises in Khartoum without any explanation.
The newspaper's lawyer , Baroud Sandal, told Miraya said that they have requested a copy of the warrant issued last Saturday by the Director of National Security and Intelligence, ordering the closure of the paper. Sandal added that the security authorities have promised to look into the memo and respond within 24 hours. The newspaper intends to petition directly the Constitutional Court if they do not receive a response from the security authorities, the lawyer warned.
The Sudanese Journalists Union (SJU), an IFJ affiliate, issued a statement on 17 May 2010 demanding the release of two journalists and writer of Rai-Elshab newspaper, noting that under the 2009 Media Law, any intervention from authorities against the media unless such intervention is granted through a court order.It described their detention as illegal detention and denounced severe violation against press freedom in Sudan.
“The only way for security service is to free the journalists and lodge a law suit against them before the normal courts,” said SJU press freedom Secretary Makki Almaghrabi.
The IFJ calls on the Sudanese authorities to release immediately and without conditions all the journalists arrested for doing their duties and to lift the ban on Rai-Alshab. The IFJ also calls on the authorities to initiate as soon as possible a dialogue with the media in order to create a conducive environment for journalists to operate.
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The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 126 countries in Africa