Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sudan Security Conducts Major Crackdown

Sudan security conducts major crackdown on newspapers accused of
promoting secession

Wednesday 7 July 2010

July 6, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The National Intelligence and Security
Services (NISS) in Sudan announced on Tuesday that it has indefinitely shut down a newspaper saying it has been encouraging secessionist tendencies in the North and South of the country.

The decision by NISS against Al-Intibaha newspaper took the country by surprise given what was perceived as having implicit blessing from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Al-Intibaha newspaper which saw the light in mid-2007 is run by
Al-Tayib Mustafa who is an uncle to Sudanese president Omer Hassan
Al-Bashir. One of Mustafa’s sons named Abu-Bakr was killed during the North-South civil war in the 90’s as a recruit in the government

Many of Mustafa’s critics claim that the death of his child in this
war has made him a staunch supporter of South Sudan’s secession and a fierce critic of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) which rules the South.

Many commentators and observers accused Mustafa of inciting hatred and racism through his writings and the line Al-Intibaha is adopting
saying that it is widely read in the South and being portrayed as
reflective of the North’s views towards the South. The newspaper had
its motto as being “the voice of the silent majority”.

The head of the NISS information department told government sponsored Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website that the decision to suspend Al-Intibaha is to “diminish its negative role in encouraging
separatist tendencies in the South and North contrary to the
constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which calls for supporting to the unity option”.

Southerners are six months away from a referendum on whether they
should split away as an independent nation.

The vote was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan’s north and south, and also created a semi-autonomous southern government.

The NISS official stressed that Sudan’s interim constitution calls for
renouncing violence and promoting harmony, fraternity and tolerance
among all people of Sudan in order to transcend religious ,
linguistic, cultural and religious differences.

He said that newspapers impacted by measures taken today violated
these values, exaggerated the security tensions in South Sudan and
directed insults at neighboring countries.

Al-Intibaha newspaper has frequently attacked countries such as Libya, Egypt and Uganda accusing them of conspiring against Sudan.

Editors of two other newspapers told Reuters that security agents
phoned late on Monday telling them to remove articles about conflicts
in Sudan’s oil-producing south, saying they would damage relations
between Khartoum and the south.

"They said they wanted us to concentrate on the issue of unity. They
said anything that might disturb the government in the south might
make problems," said the editor in chief of Al-Tayyar newspaper Osman Mirghani.

Northern and southern leaders are due to start politically sensitive
discussions on Saturday in Khartoum on how they would divide oil
revenues and debts after the plebiscite.

Analysts say most southerners favor independence but President Bashir has promised to campaign to persuade southerners to vote for unity.

A ban on papers criticizing the south would mark a change in direction
for Sudan’s security which, newspapers say, has in the past focused
its censorship on criticisms of Bashir and his northern National
Congress Party (NCP).

"We are back to square one," said Mirghani, adding he had been forced to scrap Tuesday’s print-run of Al-Tayyar because there had not been enough time to remove the offending article about tribal clashes in the south.

Similarly, editors at daily Al-Ahdath said they also received a late
call from state security and pulled their Tuesday edition, which had
contained an article about clashes between south Sudan’s army and a
renegade militia leader.

Mohiedinne Titawi, president of the Sudanese Union of Journalists,
told Agence France Presse (AFP) that censorship has been reinstated
with regard to the issue of the country’s future.

"The censorship will focus on the issue of the country’s unity or
separation and the security of south Sudan," he said.

Sudan official news agency carried a statement by the Union saying it
rejects suspension to any newspaper or pre-publication censorship.

Bashir lifted newspaper censorship last year but warned that editor in
chiefs should "avoid what leads to exceeding the red lines and avoid
mixing what is patriotic and what is destructive to the nation,
sovereignty, security, values and its morality".

He also said that newspaper publications must not "smear the
reputation of Sudan internally or externally and not propagate crime"
adding that the Sudanese society is in good shape compared to other

Any newspaper breaching these conditions will be subject to “harsh
sanction”, he said at the time.

In mid-May authorities shut down Rai al-Shaab, the newspaper of
Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi — once Bashir’s mentor but now one of his fiercest critics — who was also arrested and jailed.

Abu Zar Ali al-Amin, Ashraf Abdul-Aziz, Ramadan Mahjoub and Tahir Abu Jawhara of Rai al-Shaab newspaper have been on trial at the North Khartoum criminal court since June 9 on charges of spying and

They are specifically accused of having published "false" reports on
an alleged factory in Sudan that makes weapons for Iran. They also
wrote articles suggesting that President Omar al-Bashir, who was
re-elected in April polls, did not enjoy widespread support in Sudan.

The four might face the death penalty if found guilty.

(ST) .

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