Sudan journalists protest media crackdown since coup
Sudanese journalists are pushing back against military leaders who seized power in a coup last month, calling on them to respect press freedoms and release several editors and reporters they have detained.
The nation's media advocacy group says it has documented instances of excessive force used against reporters and media houses since the coup.
Journalists in Khartoum organized a silent protest on Tuesday. They held banners with slogans that read, “We need free press” and “Free detained journalists.”
Amru Shaban, the secretary-general of the Sudanese Journalists Network, said the military is holding six journalists in all. Among them is Mahir Abu Jukh, the editor-in-chief of the state-owned TV and radio network.
The network gathered information on more than 10 harassment incidents since the military coup on October 25, including threatening phone calls to journalists who are working for international media, Shaban told VOA's South Sudan in Focus program.
“Authorities have also intentionally cut off internet services from journalists as part of the systematic crackdown on journalists who are supposed to document the ongoing crimes against Sudanese people," Shaban said.
There has been no public comment from the military leadership since the coup about press freedoms or the crackdown against protesters. A pro-democracy doctors group says two protesters were killed during a demonstration Wednesday.
Security forces used ammunition and tear gas Saturday against demonstrators decrying the coup and military rule.
In the crackdown on journalists, Sudanese forces on Saturday raided the home of El Musalmi El Kabbashi, the bureau chief of Al Jazeera network in Khartoum, and detained him. He was released on Tuesday without charge.
Late last month, Sudanese security forces stormed the building of El Demokrati, an Arabic daily newspaper, and confiscated copies of the printed paper while detaining tops editors.
"The intention of the military is to cripple the media in the country and to prevent journalists from documenting crimes that are committed against the citizens,” Shaban told VOA.
Sudanese journalist Mohammed Sayeed told VOA that military harassment and a lack of internet services has curtailed his work in providing information to Sudanese citizens during this crucial time.
“It shows that the new system doesn’t value the press," he said. "The internet is one of the basic rights for access to information. It became our pen of writing, and the government is now attacking this pen.”
A Sudanese court ruled last week that telecommunication companies must restore internet service. The services, however, remain shut down.
Hiba Ali, a reporter working for Al Sudani Arabic daily newspaper, said for that for the past month, the outlet has been unable to print because of the internet shutdown.
“It has become clear after the military takeover that press freedom and journalists have become a target," she said. "It is the same attack that has been pursuing political activists and anybody that calls for freedoms and supports the democratic transformation in Sudan.”