10 August 2005
Police raid two newspapers despite announced end to censorship
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the "outrageous return of police raids on newspaper printing presses" in Sudan after security forces prevented two Arabic-language dailies from being published on 6 August 2005, despite a previously-announced lifting of media censorship.
"So it has taken a month for President Omar Hassan Al Bashir to break the promises he made with his hand on his heart on 11 July," RSF said. "The UN secretary-general and the heads of state present should call on the president to keep his word. We would not want to think the announcement was just for show."
On 11 July, in the presence of several African presidents, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many senior European and US officials, President Al Bashir undertook to support the construction of democracy and the rule of law, and announced the repeal of emergency laws.
On 6 August, at around 4:00 a.m. (local time), security forces raided the printing press that produces "Al Watan" and "Al Wan" newspapers. They ordered the presses stopped and confiscated all available copies of the papers. No official explanation was given by the Sudanese intelligence services.
The Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted "Al Watan" editor-in-chief Tahir Sati as saying the police had come earlier in the evening to inspect the content of the next day's edition. He said they left at the end of the evening, but returned in the early hours and seized the 25,000 copies that had already been printed.
"No reason was given," Sati said. "But we think [the move] is related to our criticism of the government, especially of its handling of the riots and demonstrations."
Serious rioting broke out in Khartoum and its suburbs after Vice-President John Garang, leader of the former rebels of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, was killed in a helicopter crash on 31 July. The Sudanese Red Crescent estimated that a total of 130 people were killed in rioting in three localities.
"Al Wan" editor-in-chief Hussein Khogali told RSF that 40,000 copies of his newspaper had been seized. He said the confiscation was "illegal," since the official lifting of censorship was announced on 9 July, and he described the police raid as a "clear violation" of free expression.
"The aim is to put us in financial difficulty. This sends a message to our advertisers that they should stop buying space in our newspaper," he said. Viewed as a supporter of the Islamist opposition, Khogali was often harassed by the police last year and spent more than a month in detention, in deplorable conditions.