The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) denounces the decision of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to confiscate copies of newspaper publications belonging to media organisations in the country.
On Sunday, July 22, 2018 the NISS confiscated printed copies of Al-Jareeda and Masadir newspapers respectively. Publications of Al-Jareeda have been seized for three consecutive days since Sunday.
No reason was given by the security officials for the confiscation. However, according to the editor in chief of Aljareeda newspaper, Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, the seizure of the Sunday publications of the newspaper was likely to be in connection with the republication of a statement by the editor-in-Chief of Masadir newspaper, Abdel-Magid Abdel-Hamid. The statement protested his being banned a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi and Sudanese media representatives.
The Al-Jareeda newspaper has experienced several incidents of harassment from state officials since its establishment in 2011. Last month, the paper was unable to distribute copies of its June 6 publication because agents of the NISS cited articles about increases in the prices of food stuffs and an attack on a market in Sudan’s Darfur region. Again in May 2016, the NISS confiscated copies of the newspaper four times within five days without explanation.
The 2009 Press and Publication Act empowers the NISS to censor the circulation of newspapers that are critical or unfavourable to the government before publication. The seizure of publications belonging to newspaper organisations has therefore become a common tool used by the NISS to stifle dissent in the country.
On January 7, 2018, officials of the NISS confiscated publications of six newspapers for publishing reports about protests against ongoing austerity measures in the country.
Between January 1 and December 31, 2015, the NISS confiscated publications belonging to over 50 organisations with some newspaper organisations being targeted on more than one occasion.
These confiscations and other freedom of expression violations do not only threaten citizens’ right to freedom of expression but also have serious financial ramifications for the sustainability of the media organisations.
According to Abdel-Aziz, his newspaper has incurred a financial loss of up to 200,000 Sudanese pounds ($4000) as a result of the continued confiscations during this year.
Sadly, the NISS continues to perpetrate these violations against free speech with impunity. According to the 2010 National Security Act (NSA), officials of the NISS are immune to prosecution for any act committed against citizens “in the course of their work” or “in good faith”, resulting in a pervasive culture of impunity for press freedom violations in Sudan.
AFEX condemns the actions of the NISS as an affront to the right of free speech. We call on President Omar Al-Bashir to order officials of the NISS to put a stop to the arbitrary confiscations of newspaper publications in the country and ensure that freedom of expression and access to information rights are protected as guaranteed in Sudan’s Constitution.