Mass Arrests of Journalists; Fears for Safety
PEN International protests the wave of arrests of journalists during recent pro-democracy street protests in Sudan. In particular it is concerned by the incommunicado detention of at least 12 journalists, 11 of whom were arrested between January and February of 2010. PEN considers these detentions to be in violation of the journalists’ right to freedom of expression, and therefore calls on the Sudanese authorities to disclose their whereabouts and bring about their immediate and unconditional release.
PEN is seriously concerned about the safety of nine journalists from Al-Midan opposition newspaper. Reporters Samir Salah Eldin, Mohamed Rahama, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, Suleiman Wida'a, Khaled Tawfiq, Mohaned el-Dirdiri, Fatima Bashir, and Fathia Tinga, were all arrested on February 3, 2011, for their coverage of street protests on January 30. Their whereabouts are unknown. PEN is concerned for their safety and they are considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment.
According to PEN’s information, several other journalists are still being held by the security services in Khartoum. Hamza Baloul and Ali Ahmad Haj Al- Amin of Al-Ahdath newspaper were arrested on January 10 by the security forces for covering students’ protests and they are believed to still be held incommunicado.
Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim, from Alsahafa newspaper, was arrested on November 3, 2010, and his whereabouts remain unknown. PEN is also concerned about the safety of these three journalists.
Five other journalists from Alsahafa, Akhbar al-Youm, Al-Jarida and Ajras Al-huriya were arrested on 10 January and released on February 1.
On February 2, Abu Eisha Kazim and Abdel Gadir Bakash of Sawt al- Bar’out were acquitted by a court in Khartoum after being charged with overthrowing the government. They were arrested on January 10, 2011, for covering street protests in Khartoum.
PEN considers the journalists’ detention to be in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and calls on the Sudanese authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, it urges the authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detained journalists, and seeks assurances that they will not be ill treated while in detention.
Torture or other forms of ill-treatment of human rights activists and journalists by the National Intelligence and Security Services is often reported in Sudan, particularly amongst Darfuris and when those detained are not given access to the outside world. Amnesty International documented many cases of torture and ill-treatment in detention against human rights activists and journalists, and amongst Darfuris, namely at the hands of the NISS.
The NISS continues to impose restrictions on freedom of expression in Sudan and to target journalists in relation to their writing. Journalists are often prosecuted for the peaceful expression of their opinions. In June 2010, six opposition journalists from Rai Al Shaab newspaper were arrested by the NISS. Some of them were tortured and otherwise ill-treated, three of them, Abuzar Al Amin, Al Tahir Abujawhara and Ashraf Abdelaziz were sentenced to five and two years in prison in relation to an article written by Abuzar Al Amin.
The 2010 National Security Act (2010 NSA), passed in December 2009, provides extensive powers of arrest and detention to members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Under the same Act, NISS agents are also provided with immunity from prosecution for any act committed in the course of their work. The 2010 NSA maintained powers and immunities provided under the previous law, the 1999 National Security Forces Act. As a result of these laws, a culture of impunity has pervaded in Sudan and NISS members have been carrying out human rights violations with impunity.
Although Sudan’s Criminal Procedure Code contains safeguards against incommunicado detention, Article 50 of the 2010 NSA stipulates that the NISS can arrest and detain any person for a total period of four and a half months without judicial oversight. The 2010 Act does not specify the grounds on which such detentions can be made. Such incommunicado detention without access to the outside world and without any outside inspection increases the likelihood of torture taking place.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the arrest and incommunicado detention of Al-Midan journalists Samir Salah Eldin, Mohamed Rahama, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, Suleiman Wida'a, Khaled Tawfiq, Mohaned el-Dirdiri,Fatima Bashir, Fathia Tinga, journalists Hamza Baloul, and Ali Ahmad Haj Al- Amin of Al-Ahdath and Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim of Alsahafa, which PEN believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression;
- Urging the Sudanese authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detained journalists and guarantee them immediate access to family and lawyers;
- Calling on the authorities to release these journalists immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
HE President Omar Al Bashir
Office of the President
PO Box 281
Fax: +249 183 774339
Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
Director of the NISS
Dr Priscilla Joseph
Chair of the Human Rights Committee
Fax: +249 187 560 980
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sudan in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after February 20, 2011: ftw [at] pen.org