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Sudan Closes Office of Al Jazeera Live Channel

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Monday, January 17th, 2022
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The Sudanese Ministry of Information and Culture withdrew the license of Qatar-based Al Jazeera Live on Saturday and closed its office in Khartoum. Sudanese journalists condemned the move.

The work permit of reporter Mohamed Omar was withdrawn as well, the Arab satellite channel reported from Doha.

The Preparatory Committee for the Restoration of the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate described the closure of the office as “an extension of the practices of the coup authorities towards Sudanese journalists”.

In a press statement yesterday, the committee denounced the growing hostility toward journalists and correspondents covering mass demonstrations in the past couple of weeks and pointed to attempts of regular forces riding in four-wheel-drive vehicles to run over reporters covering demonstrations near the Republican Palace in central Khartoum last week.

It described the closure of the office as a violation of the 2009 Press and Press Publications Law, as the National Council for Press and Press Publications is responsible for licensing, regulating, and supervising the work of foreign news channels licensed in accordance with the law, and not the Ministry Information and Culture. “Therefore, Al Jazeera has the right to file an administrative appeal against this unlawful decision.”

The committee called on Sudanese journalists and others working in press and media institutions in the country “to take a unified position and coordinate professional solidarity efforts in defence of freedom of the press and the media, and their right to perform their work”.

Editor-in-chief of the independent daily El Jareeda newspaper, Ashraf Ibrahim, also condemned “the suppression of journalists doing their duty”.

He told Radio Dabanga yesterday evening that the freedom of the press is deteriorating rapidly, in particular after the General Intelligence Service (GIS)* was given the authority to detain civilians during the State of Emergency, imposed after the coup d’état of October 25. He further ridiculed the apologies presented by the authorities “each time journalists have been assaulted”.

‘Al Jazeera has the right to file an administrative appeal against this unlawful decision.’ – Preparatory Committee for the Restoration of the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate

The Sudanese Journalists’ Forum in the United Kingdom also condemned the hostility of “the military coup forces” against journalists.

In a statement yesterday, they pointed to journalist Rajaa Ahmed, a member of the Forum’s board of trustees, who was detained on December 30, while covering the Marches of the Millions in Khartoum, and charged with inciting chaos. She was released on bail the next day. The trial date has not been set yet.

The statement further mentioned assaults against journalists Shamayel El Nour, Osman Fadlallah, and Bakri Khalifa during their coverage of the January 13 mass protests in Khartoum, the storming of the Al Araby TV office in Khartoum and the detention of journalists Islam Saleh, Wael El Hasan, and photographer Mazin Onur that day.

Journalists and correspondents of satellite channels and agencies are facing increasing violence and prosecutions by the security forces since the October coup, especially when covering the pro-democracy marches calling for a return to civilian rule.

Radio Dabanga reported last week that photographers Mohamed Khidir and Majdi Abdallah working for the Chinese news agency Xinhua were detained and questioned for hours by the military authorities on January 12.

Crew members of the London-based Al Araby press agency were attacked with tear gas canisters while they were filming protests from their office in central Khartoum on January 4.

In the end of December, joint security forces stormed the offices of the Arab Al Arabiya and Al Hadath satellite TV channels, assaulted the journalists present, destroyed their equipment, and stole their belongings. Staff members of Asharq News Channel and Sky News Arabia were threatened as well.

During the March of the Millions on December 19, a large number of journalists and other media professionals in the capital were beaten and detained. A woman journalist went missing.

* The General Intelligence Service (GIS) is the successor of the disbanded National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which was one of the most infamous and feared organs of the Al Bashir dictatorship, that acted ruthlessly against any political dissent. The NISS was officially disbanded in July 2019 by a constitutional decree “restructuring the security apparatus, to cope with the political change in the country”. The decree amended several articles of the National Security Act of 2010, in order to restructure the NISS, to adjust its competencies, and change its name. The new intelligence service was no longer authorised to detain people or carry out search operations – which was reversed again when the State of Emergency was imposed by army leader and head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan following the military coup on October 25, 2021.

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