The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Sudanese Union of Journalists (SUJ), urge the authorities to stop the harassment and guarantee rights during this critical period.
21 newspapers have been suspended, leaving hundreds of journalists without income and the country deprived of newspapers in a critical moment.
According to SUJ, the government currently controls several media outlets through appointed “administrative supervisors,” while national media organizations are being heavily penalized, with more than 500 journalists likely to be dismissed soon, according to a plan drawn up by the Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC), created to dismantle former president Bashir’s system.
The latest blow against press freedom was struck last week when the authorities announced legal changes which would result in jail terms of up to 10 years for criticising the actions of the Committee. The new provision has already claimed its first victims, among them Atyib Mustafa Abdelrahman, an SUJ member, columnist and publisher, who was arrested for his critical stance, the union claims.
These restrictive measures have grown during the Covid-19 crisis. According to SUJ, journalists have been repeatedly threatened, harassed, and summoned over in recent weeks. Journalists Lana Awad Sabil and Aida Ahmed Abdelgadir were arrested after publishing reports about the number of Covid deaths.
No journalists have been allowed to cover the proceedings of the High Committee for the Emergency of Corona and the relevant authorisations and permits have been removed from accredited journalists and correspondents, hindering their movement during the curfew period.
The move comes after recent attacks on the SUJ. On 7 June, the ERC issued an arrest warrant for the journalists union’s president. While not immediately translated into an arrest, the warrant could be implemented at any time, authorities said.
The SUJ’s premises have been occupied since December 2019, when military forces stormed the building and banned and forcibly shut down the country's trade unions.
“Sudanese Union of Journalists main office in Khartoum is still occupied by security forces, all assets were confiscated, top officials in the government are threatening us with prison from time to time, but we do not surrender, we are still fighting,” said the SUJ.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said, “Sudanese journalists need international support. We call on the Sudanese authorities to release all imprisoned journalists, stop the control over unions and stop harassing and blackmailing reporters covering the pandemic”.