Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sudanese press suffers under economic woes

Originally published @

The year 2013 was a year of economic woes for everyone in the newspaper industry in Sudan. For the first time in years, inflation is rapidly heading towards the 50% mark, with the Sudanese pound (SDG) losing over half of its value.  As a result, newspapers initially had to change their price from 1 SDG to 1.5 SDG and then eventually to 2 SDG by November 2013.

This increase has turned newspapers into a luxury, like the expensive English butter biscuits gathering dust on the shelves of supermarkets. 

A few days ago, Al-Ayam newspaper, one of the few independent newspapers in Sudan, published figures indicating a 50% decrease in the circulation of newspapers in general in 2013 compared to the year before, while many newspapers were forced out of business.

Al-Ayam, one of Sudan's oldest newspapers, was established in the 1950’s and survived a number of dictatorships that censored it and even shut it down for years.  However, the outlet is desperately struggling at the moment, clinging onto a life jacket in a bid to survive the current economic wave.
"Nearly 80% of the issues printed are sold, which is good distribution.  However, we don't print the same issues every day - we print based on our financial situation," said Ahmed Al-Sheikh, an editor at Al-Ayam.

Al-Ayam receives practically no revenue from advertising, meaning that the newspaper has to survive on its distribution funds, and the instability this has produced has led to many journalists leaving its payroll.
Death of the rebel
Two months ago, Al-Qarar newspaper disappeared from the newsstands. Al-Qarar, known by journalists as "an act of rebellion," was launched by journalists who were frustrated at working in newspapers owned by businessmen. It was first printed in October 2012 with founders who decided that they wouldn’t take salaries until the newspaper was able to stand on its feet.  It never did.
"I was committed to the newspaper and what it represents so I stayed there, although I made less than what I made two years ago at another newspaper.  Sometimes, the pay came months late," said Ayman Senjrab, the news editor at Al-Qarar.

Like others at Al-Qarar, Senjrab was practically a volunteer, but he and his colleagues enjoyed working at a newspaper and the unique experience it entailed. The well-known journalist is currently waiting to hear whether "the rebel" will be back in business or not, but he is concerned for its future. The newspaper has to pay back debts it owes to the publishing house, but in reality, it needs to get back into business to recoup the money it owes.

"I expect to see more newspapers collapsing with this deteriorating economy, and the independent newspapers will lose the battle first," Senjrab told DCMF.

Along with Al-Qarar, many newspapers, covering sports, as well as political and social affairs, have had to stop printing, and they have done so making very little noise. Al-Akhbar, Noon, Al-Mawaj Al-Azraq, Sada-Al-Malaab, Al-Helal, Al-Mereikh, Al-Shabka, New Sport, Super and Fanon have all disappeared from the kiosks in Khartoum. 

Untenable expenses
The circulation of political newspapers went from 258,000 to between 130,000 and 140,000 in 2013 with sports newspapers’ numbers also dropping, and social affairs newspapers suffering a 40% loss in circulation.

At the beginning of 2013, many newspapers were complaining over the prices of paper, which had more than doubled following the austerity measures of 2012.  At the end of 2013, the government implemented another wave of austerity measures, this time removing fuel subsidies, which caused a rapid increase in all prices and led to a week of protests and violence, during which dozens of civilians were allegedly killed by security forces and members of the media were targeted.

In Jackson square, a public transportation station in Khartoum where thousands flock every day, at a corner next to a shop selling dates, a sole vendor sits showcasing different newspapers on a table. At least a dozen people stand around the table, with heads bowed in an attempt to read the headlines and some important news - but noone is buying. The seller doesn't bother anyone "reading" unless they decide to hold the newspaper to flip a page.

Hussein Mohamed Ali rents a kiosk next to the locality building in Omdurman. Officially he sells newspapers, but to make ends meet, he also sells phone credit, stationery and other items. He explained that "people stand in front of my kiosk and skim the newspapers, less people are buying newspapers now."

"The people who used to buy three newspapers now buy one newspaper, that’s why I return 60% of the newspapers at the end of the day because I am not able to sell them," he added.
The current price of 2 SDG only remains following a serious struggle by newspapers, after publishers circulated a statement last year saying that the price would increase to 2.5 SDG, arguing that they had already endured significant losses to avoid price increases.

Newspapers also blamed
Al-Nour Ahmed Al-Nour, who is a columnist for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper and also writes for Al-Taghyeer newspaper in Khartoum, said that in the midst of the current economic crisis, people are focusing on buying bread and other staples as opposed to newspapers.
"The newspapers are expensive, but also the lack of press freedoms is negatively affecting how newspapers tackle different issues, and this has created newspapers that are unfulfilling to readers." said Al-Nour.

Al-Sheikh agreed with Al-Nour adding that there is a serious problem of credibility.
"Security pressures made newspapers very far from their readers.  For example, if a citizen sees a protest in their neighbourhood and it is not reported tomorrow in the newspaper, they lose faith in the newspaper," said Al-Sheikh.

Before it stopped printing, daily political newspaper Al-Qarar had only 16 staff members; significantly fewer than the number generally required to run such an operation.

The economic situation is making it very difficult for newspapers to hire and retain qualified staff, leading to a double-edged sword, newspapers have to settle for less qualified staff or trainees, but this in turn leads to them losing the readership attracted to the well-known journalists they might previously have hired.

Outside the capital
Almost all newspapers are focused and printed in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. However, two cities outside Khartoum have newspapers, and Port Sudan in Eastern Sudan has three local newspapers. 
Abdelhady Al-Haj, the former managing editor of Port Sudan - My City, told DCMF that the price of newspapers in the city has increased by between 0.50 SDG and 1 SDG in comparison to those in Khartoum, meaning that papers now cost between 2.50 SDG and 3 SDG.

"The bigger problem is that the newspapers are printed in Khartoum and then transported by bus to Port Sudan.  They reach there in the late afternoon and the distribution period is in the evening until 3 pm the next day," explained Al-Haj, highlighting the fact that while they subsequently have to pay more, readers are provided with news much later than others.

Port Sudan - My City used to print between 6,000 and 7,000 copies a day when Al-Haj worked there.
"Now, the newspaper prints 2,000 or 3,000 copies, because the circulation has dropped and distributors started complaining," he said.

 The result is that journalists in Port Sudan, much like their colleagues based elsewhere across the country, are being forced to pursue other professional opportunities, in many cases leaving behind a profession that they love because it is no longer a viable option in the current economic climate.

On September Protests

Saturday's protest began after Sanhouri was buried in Buri cemetery. The protesters marched for two hours from Buri to Street 60, one of the main streets in Khartoum.

"The police began firing heavy tear gas and rubber bullets to crack down on the protest, then the live bullets began," said Hamid Mohamed, an engineer who joined the burial and protest. Mohamed's friend was injured by a rubber bullet to his head and taken to the hospital right away. 
"I saw an older man who was shot in his leg by a live bullet," Mohamed told Al-Monitor in an interview. He added that there were more injuries, but because people dispersed he could only confirm the ones he witnessed.

Peaceful is what activists have called the ongoing protests in Sudan, which began in Medani, the capital of Jazeera state, on Sept. 23, a day after President Omar al-Bashir announced new economic measures to save the collapsing Sudanese economy. Economic measures include the lifting of fuel subsidies, which immediately caused prices to double.
The protests in Medani saw civilian deaths as well as the burning of gas stations, the symbol of this round of economic measures. The next day, the anger spread to Khartoum and other cities in Sudan. 
On Sept. 25, the building of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the Ombada locality in Khartoum state was burned to ashes in addition to two police stations and various gas stations. 
The Sudanese government has refused to admit that protests are happening in Khartoum, accusing instead the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of armed movements, of instigating acts of violence in the state and referring to the protesters as homeless people and thugs.

State television and government-owned newspapers have reiterated the government's message, showing videos of groups of youth burning cars and vandalizing, while activists and independent media have accused the government of using thugs to scare the public and imposing a media blackout, as various newspapers were confiscated and the Internet shut off for over a day.

However, speaking to the national radio on Sept. 27, Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud admitted that over 600 people who took part in the protests have been detained since last week. While Mahmoud spoke, Omdurman city — a locality in Khartoum state — was brewing, as thousands of protesters walked for over an hour from Wad Nobawi to Street 40.

It was 16-year-old Sara Yousif's first protest, the first time she expressed her anger at the government. Yousif just took the high school exam and will go to college next month. "I am out because I want the government to leave; we want a better life," said Yousif, who was encouraged by the pictures of protests she received on WhatsApp, the smartphone instant messaging application.

Yousif marched with her sister, cousin, aunts and uncle. The group walked to Wad Nobawi, where the protest began, joining large numbers in chants calling for the toppling of the government, screaming that they will give their blood and lives to Sudan.

Each time the protest passed soldiers, riot police and security agents, they chanted the word peaceful, emphasizing that they are unarmed protesters who only want to express themselves.After an hour of marching and chanting, the protest stopped, and the protesters began singing the national anthem. At this point, riot police and security soldiers surrounded the large protest from the front and the back and shot tear gas canisters and live bullets.

"They used live ammunition and this dispersed the protest. We were on the main road, so I hid in one of the houses that opened their doors to the protesters," Samira Ahmed, one of the protesters, told Al-Monitor.

The scene was chaotic with several thousand protesters running into side streets and houses on the main street. Some leaving their bags and shoes behind, some fell to the ground, injured, while others were lost and confused, searching for their loved ones.
Yousif found herself alone, separated from her elder sister, who had been holding her hand, as well as other family members. "I ran into one of the houses, then jumped the wall to another house and then jumped many walls before I found myself on a side street. I then ran to my aunt's house," said Yousif, who was worried about her family at the time.

Some protesters found safety, some went to the hospital with broken bones and gunshot wounds, while others were arrested. 

The Sudanese government has admitted the deaths of 33 people due to "uncontrolled gangs"; however, the Sudanese Doctors Syndicate estimated that 210 people have been killed during the protests.
"My neighborhood in Omdurman was a war zone for days. We kept screaming as they fired tear gas and live bullets, while men from my neighborhood were injured and others died," Fatima Saeed, who works for an international nongovernmental organization, told Al-Monitor.
Saeed wants regime change in Sudan, but cannot comprehend how much more lives will be lost. "Our strong protests have been suppressed by the live bullets, and they have arrested many youth in my neighborhood. The security has a list of names they arrest from," Saeed said.
The protests continued on Sept. 29 in Kassala, eastern Sudan, and spread to Ahfad University for Women on Sept 30.

“We are locked inside the campus, the police are surrounding us and we are chanting against the regime. They fired tear gas at us on campus,” said Ola Abdullah, who spoke to Al-Monitor on the phone.
It is unclear how the violence will impact the nonviolent nature of the protests, but until today protesters have insisted that their protests will remain peaceful.

All names were altered to protect the identity of the interviewees.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

الموضوع ما النظام العام، الموضوع الراي العام

شهر ١٠ الفات، مشيت بنك الخرطوم  عشان اقضي كم غرض. واقفة في واحد من الصفوف  الكتيرة البتجسد الفهم السوداني "للصف". في راجل كبير في السن واقف وراي  و بدون مقدمات، قال لي يا بت "ارفعي الطرحة" …الطرحة الكانت في كتفي  طبعاً.. لمن قبلته عليهو تاني بنبرة حادة اكتر قال لي يا بت ارفعي الطرحة…غطي شعرك..
واصلته في وقفتي لحدي ما جاء دوري بعد نص ساعة و في النص ساعة دي… سمعتة محادثة بين الراجل الكبير دا و شاب واقف جامبو و المحادثة دي كانت مهمة و بتعبر عن كيف الشعب زاتو بقى متمسك بثقافة النظام العام و بيطبق في نظرياته.

بعد ما الراجل قرر اني بت ما عندي اخلاق و "فاجرة" قال للشاب الوراهو 
"شفته الفاجرات ديل هم الجايبين لينا الظلم و الفقر و الوضع النحنا فيهو هسي" 
ووافق الشاب و اتكلموا عن كيف لو البنات لبست كويس  الحاجات حتبقى كويسة و البلد حترجع لي خيره.

   لمن قريت  قصة اميرة عثمان مع النظام العام ، اتذكرته الراجل دا و المنطق بتاعه. ممكن في ناس تستغرب لكن حتى بدون ناس النظام العام، الشعب السوداني بقى كلو نظام عام. يعني لو طرحتك وقعت في الموصلات، ما محتاجة ترفعيها لانو الراجل او المراة الوراك حيرفعوها ليك طوالي. لو توبك وقع، نفس الناس ديل حقولوا ليك البسي عباية يا مرا.. العباية سترة اكتر..

واصبح الشعب شغال لصالح النظم العام لانو مقتنعين انو في مشاكل اجتماعية حيقيقة من تفكك الاسر، الاطفال فاقدي السند، الفقر الما حصل قبلي كدا، المخدرات الخ...

هسي لو سالتوا الراجل في البنك علاقتي انا او البنات شنو بوضع البلد، حيقول ليكم انو البلد دي منكوبة عشان لبس البنات الي بيمثل ليهو و لناس كتير اكبر موشر لفساد المجتمع او تفكك الاسرة او كل الظواهر السلبية. لانو الرؤية (زي ما اتنقلت ليهم من ثقافة النظام العام) هي انو انحراف المجتمع بيبدا من النساء لانو هم البيحملوا خارج الزواج (قضايا الزنا هنا بتتحاكم فيها النساء بس) ، هم البيغروا الرجال الى الرزيلة ، هو البخلو اولادهم ينحرفوا بالاهمال و هم و هم و هم. 

فلو الثقافة دي بتخلي الزول يفكر انو تفشي المشاكل الاجتماعية هي سببها النساء يبقى ساهل انو يربط بين الحاجات دي و المشاكل الاقتصادية …يعني النساء بيبقو سبب مشاكله اليومية و الضائقة المعيشية اليومية.

و راي الراجل فالبنك هو من غير ما يكون عارف بيتماشى مع قانون النظام العام. 

قانون النظام العام زي ما قال واحد من الاشخاص الوضعوا القانون: يهدف انو يعمل صياغة جديدة للمجتمع ويذل المراة. 

ما ضروري يتم اعتقلاك ورفعك في البوكس عشان يتم اذلالك، افتكر انو كبت في السودان ، كون انك تخافي من النظام العام و تشيلي هم المرقة ، دا في حد ذاتو ذلة.
و اعادة صياغ المجتمع دا الموضوع الافتكر مهم شديد. لانو النظام العام نقل الفكر و المنهج الداير يطبقوا للمجتمع و المجتمع هو بقى اكبر مطبق في الجامعات، المواصلات او في الاحياء (رش موية النار، التحرش، الضرب و الاسائات و كل الحاجات البقت شبه يومية للنساء في السودان)

المشكلة ما طرحة او بنطلون، المشكلة هي انو المجتمع بقى منكوب بالمشاكل الاجتماعية و لكن قبض الناس و الجلد هو ما حل. الحل هو سياسة جديدة توحد البلد و توقف الحروب و سياسيات اقتصادية ترفع الناس من تحت خط الفقر. 

Sudan's Anti-FGM Campaign Avoids Using the Term

A new nationwide media blitz in Sudan calls for the end of the practice of cutting girls' genitalia. Critics say its edge is dulled by not directly referring to FGM and instead relying on a word that means "complete."

Published @

Time to Let Sudan’s Girls Be Girls, Not Brides

Published at IPS

Lawyers and rights activists are calling for a change in Sudan’s laws which allow for the marriage of girls as young as 10.
It is time, they say, that Sudan’s laws recognise gender equality so that the country’s girls and young women can take control of their lives and leave behind the cycle of child marriage and abuse.
“(Activists) are advocating a change in the personal status laws as they discriminate against women and aim to keep them in the household,” said Khadija Al-Dowahi, from the Sudanese Organisation for Research and Development (SORD), which conducts research on child marriage.
Sudan’s 1991 Personal Status Law of Muslims does not grant women equal rights. It also promotes child marriage. Article 40 of the personal status law sets no age limit for marriage and in fact states that a 10-year-old girl can be married “with the permission of a judge”.
"Before we observed more marriages of girls in agricultural communities … now it is increasing in cities because of the economic situation and the attempt by families to preserve their girls from the corruption of the city." -- human rights lawyer Amel Al-Zein
“The personal status laws basically state that girls can get married when they are old enough to be able to comprehend matters … but you could easily say that girls understand matters at the age of 10,” Al-Dowahi told IPS.
The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates that a third of Sudanese women now aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18. In rural areas, where the problem is more persistent, child marriage is as high as 39 percent as opposed to 22 percent in urban areas.
A visit to Khartoum Hospital shows clearly just how widespread the phenomenon of child marriage is in Sudan. Inside, there is an entire Obsetric Fistula ward – the patients there are mostly young mothers whose bodies are too underdeveloped to allow them to give birth, making them prone to developing fistula.
Amel Al-Zein, a lawyer who has researched the issue of child marriage, is very critical of the country’s personal status laws.
“Unlike other countries in the region or Islamic countries per se, it does not specify a certain age for marriage, which is the only guarantee to controlling child marriage,” Al-Zein told IPS.
Al-Zein stated that women could not go to court to get a divorce or undertake any legal procedures before the age of 18, which contradicts the fact that girls as young as 10 are married.
“When we began researching issues of gender justice, we started seeing how child marriage is interlinked to many issues facing women, the women go to courts to fight over custody and get a divorce only to discover how terrible and discriminatory the laws are,” said Al-Dowahi, whose organisation has proposed reforms to the laws.
SORD has recently established a legal aid centre for women being discriminated against by the personal status laws. So far 46 cases have arrived at the centre since its inception three months ago.
Meanwhile, the Council of Sudanese Scholars, a prestigious religious body, is  causing controversy. Last year when its secretary-general, Prof. Mohamed Osman Salah, spoke in favour of child marriage, activists became infuriated.
Salah told the press in October 2012: “Islam encourages youth to marry to save them from perversion or any dangers of being single and to make them happy and to preserve reproduction.”
Not all religious scholars share Salah’s opinion. This is mainly because child marriage in Sudan is a consequence of social and cultural traditions, not only religious values.
Sarah Mohamed*, for example, was married off at 13 years old because the nearest high school for girls was too far from her village – lack of access to education makes parents less likely to keep daughters at home.
This is not an unusual age for getting married in her small village of Karko, which lies in Southern Kordofan.
“I remember how confused I felt, I had no idea what marriage is, I was a child,” Mohamed, who turned 30 a few weeks ago and now has five children, told IPS.
She had her firstborn at 16 and today very few people can believe that she has a son in high school.
Rana Ahmed* had a different experience. She was 15 when her mother discovered that she was dating a boy in her neighbourhood, after she caught her speaking to him on the phone.
“She became too upset and told me that she would find me a husband before I did something really bad. She said this would make me stop playing around,” Ahmed, now 24, told IPS.
Her husband, who was in his late 30s at the time, took Rana abroad, where he worked as a doctor, for five years. When they returned to Sudan, with her two young children, she felt that she wanted to live again.
“I was bored and unfulfilled in my life, I wanted to experience what girls my age experience. I wanted to have the freedom to date and go out,” said Ahmed who is now divorced.
Al-Dowahi said that Ahmed’s story is not unique – young girls are not ready for family responsibilities or for sexual experience. Some end up succeeding and going back to school, but others cannot cope and end up having affairs and living a quite different life.
As Sudan’s economic situation continues to deteriorate, activists have said that  cities are themselves becoming similar to rural areas, with child marriage becoming a pressing problem even among the educated urban communities.
“Before we observed more marriages of girls in agricultural communities … now it is increasing in cities because of the economic situation and the attempt by families to preserve their girls from the corruption of the city,” said Al-Zein.
SORD’s research showed that women in camps for internally displaced persons and in east Sudan usually face early marriage more than others.
In fact, east Sudan is home to the youngest divorcee – a young girl who was granted a divorce when she was nine. In the traditions of her community, girls are married at the age of two months, and taken to their husbands after they reach 10 years of age.
Lakshmi Sundaram, global coordinator of Girls not Brides, a global partnership to end child marriage, thinks it is a question of the value placed on the girl-child.
“We have to challenge converting a girl, even with her consent, into an economic commodity. We have to address the fundamental aspect that a girl has intrinsic value as a human being, not just a value cost,” Sundaram told IPS.
*Names changed to protect identity.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sudan Hits Hard at Female Activists

KHARTOUM, Jul 2 2013 (IPS) - More and more of Sudan’s female politicians and rights activists are being arrested and detained in the government’s clampdown on opposition political parties.
Asma Ahmed, a lawyer and member of the banned Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM–N), was released on Jun. 14 after a five-week detention. She believes that the Sudanese authorities are increasingly targeting women because they have become more active in the political and social arena in recent years.
“The targeting of women activists is because we are continuing to send our messages effectively. If we weren’t, we would not be detained … but detentions will not make women less keen to continue activism,” Ahmed told IPS.
The rebel SPLM–N was banned in 2011 when it took up arms against government forces in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
“My house was watched for a few days before my detention. My family was told by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers that I had been summoned, and so I went to the interrogation in Khartoum north and didn’t return home that day,” Ahmed said.
According to international rights watchdog Amnesty International, Sudan’s 2010 National Security Act, “provides agents of the security services with wide powers of arrest and detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remain widespread.”
In April, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that “in recent months the Sudanese government has increased repression of political and civil society groups. The authorities shut down four civil society groups in December, accusing them of receiving foreign funds, have also closed down Nuba cultural groups, and recently re-instated restrictions on the media.”
It is unclear how many women remain in detention. The Sudanese Council for Defending Rights and Freedoms, an independent body of human rights defenders, lawyers and politicians, stated that the SPLM–N alone has 600 detainees, a significant number of whom are women.
Women are not exempt from the scare tactics used by security services. The events culminating in Entisar Al-Agali’s arrest are almost like a Hollywood action film. She was driving home from a meeting on Jan. 7 when a car belonging to the NISS began following her until she reached Africa Road in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
“They tried to stop my car, but I was speeding and trying to get away. They caught up with me and hit my car from the back and, because I was trying to avoid an accident, I stopped the car,” Al-Agali told IPS.
Al-Agali had returned from Kampala, Uganda where she had been taking part in the talks that led to the drafting of the New Dawn Charter, a document signed by Sudanese opposition political parties, as well as rebel groups and civil society, that deals with the methods to be used to bring down the Sudanese regime and set up a transitional government in the war-torn country.
“I spent 87 days in Omdurman Women’s Prison, 75 days of which were in solitary confinement,” said Al-Agali, who is a leading member of the opposition Socialist Unionist Nasserist Party.
Al-Agali was the only woman to be detained after the signing of the New Dawn Charter on Jan. 6, which saw a wave of arrests of political leaders. She is, however, not the only woman to spend weeks or months in detention in the past two years.
In November 2012, 34 alleged members of SPLM–N, most of whom are government employees, were detained in Kadugli, the capital of the embattled state of Southern Kordofan. On Apr. 26, 14 were released, but the 20 others continue to be held in detention in Kadugli Prison.
Khadija Mohamed Badr was one of the detainees released and she now stays with her family in Khartoum.
“She was severely hurt and broke two spinal discs as she slipped while in detention. She is now paying for treatment with her own money,” an activist who is trying to raise financial assistance for Badr, and who wished to remain anonymous for fear of his safety, told IPS.
Meanwhile, the government National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been trying to establish itself as an advocacy body for political detainees. But Abdelmoniem Mohamed, a human rights lawyer who has monitored the NHRC’s role in other cases, told IPS that it has not been responsive to cases of political oppression, such as that of Jalila Khamis.
“The commission asked us to submit cases to them, cases of political detainees. But I am sceptical as they were slow to act on Khamis’s case,” he told IPS.
Khamis, a teacher and human rights activist, was detained in March 2012 for a video she recorded on the war in her homeland, the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan. Fighting between the Sudanese army and the rebel SPLM–N has been ongoing in the region since June 2011. Khamis had faced life imprisonment but was released in January after a long trial.
“I was subjected to long interrogations, the worst time was when they told me that they would kill my son. This was when I was diagnosed with arterial hypertension,” Khamis told IPS. Although released, she continues to be monitored by state security.
While it is difficult to say how many female political activists are in prison, one activist who preferred to remain anonymous told IPS:  “When the family of a detainee in Kosti (a city south of Sudan’s capital Khartoum) visited her in detention, they were given a long list of women’s names to choose from. This means that there are many women detainees we don’t know about.”
Fatima Ghazzali, a pro-democracy activist and journalist working for the political section of Al-Jareeda newspaper said that women were at the forefront of the calls for democracy and freedom in Sudan.
“It is women who are the majority of internally displaced in this country, they bear the brunt of war. Women suffer the most under authoritarian regimes, that is why it does not surprise me to see that women are more keen to have democracy in Sudan,” Ghazzali told IPS, adding that only democracy would give women their full rights and protect them from security forces.
The escalating participation of women activists in recent protests and campaigns has even made the police take notice of women’s participation in calls for democracy, she said.
“They said that women and journalists are always there, always present at protests,” said Ghazzali, who spent time in jail in 2011 for an article she wrote on the gang rape of a female protestor in detention.

Published @

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sudanese journalist targeted for allegedly insulting the military

Published @Index on Censorship

When three journalists were invited to accompany a military official to a town supposedly recaptured from rebels, they did not expect to end up caught in crossfire. One journalist is being targeted after an anonymous and more honest account of the incident appeared online.

Charges have been brought against journalist Khaled Ahmed for allegedly writing a report critical of the Sudanese military.

Ahmed was one of three journalists that accompanied Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) chief of staff Esmat Abdelrahman on a visit to Abu Karshola, a neglected town in the embattled state of South Kordofan — where there has been a war between the government and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North Sudan Faction (SPLM-N) since June 2011. The visit was organised to celebrate the town’s “liberation” from rebels.

Both SAF and the media were blocked from Abu Karshola between late April and late May. The town was occupied by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups (including SPLM-N), which has fought the Sudanese government in different parts of the country since 2011. While the group contends that its departure in May was a “tactical” move, the government has asserted that it regained control of the town.

On 31 May three journalists flew over Abu Karshola in a military plane. Rather than finding a “liberated” town, Ahmed told Index that what he actually saw was a war-zone. During their visit, they were caught in crossfire as they toured the army force’s front lines. A few bullets came too close to Ahmed, and soon after he and the other journalists were taken back to the army base for safety.

“A military plane was called on for our aid, it was shot down by the SRF, we were three journalists stuck in a battlefield,” said Ahmed.

While rebels claimed to have downed the plane, official reports said that the plane crashed due to mechanical failure.

The journalists eventually returned safely to Khartoum. Ahmed’s report was published in Al-Sudani, the pro-government newspaper he works for. However, another more realistic account was published and circulated online by someone named Khaled — and that version has been attributed to Ahmed.

The report gave a version of events left out of the SAF’s spokesperson’s official statements. It painted a picture of an exhausted and confused army that actually isn’t in control of a ghost-town that the government claims it controls.

On 4 June security forces arrested Ahmed, as the report included eye-witness details drawn from the trip, and was penned by someone that shares his first name.

“I reserve the right to remain silent — I can’t answer”, said Ahmed when asked about whether or not he wrote the more honest account.

“I was told that I am detained due to a complaint filed by the army, I was interrogated for two days and asked about whether I wrote the article. I denied it, but they told me that I will be charged,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed is now facing four charges: harming the morale of the armed forces, sharing military information, tarnishing the reputation of the Chief of Staff, as well as electronic publishing (as per the new electronics crimes laws). He also said that his email and Facebook page were hacked.

The Electronic Crimes Police, which deals with crimes online, held Ahmed for a day. The law, (passed in 2007), means that journalists publishing online, as well as individuals discussing “sensitive” issues on social media websites could be detained, fined, and tried. He faces up to five years in jail as well as a fine.

Sudan will soon begin to implement its new electronic crimes laws, and Ahmed could become the first journalist to be tried under those laws. Another journalist, Wael Taha, was taken to court by a lawyer who claimed that he published false information about her under a penname, but the case was dismissed for insufficient evidence.

Just ten days after Ahmed’s detention, Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, a presidential aide, told the legislative council of Khartoum state that the Sudanese army cannot curb the SRF, and that it needs support and mobilisation from the public.

Ahmed was released on bail on 7 June, but he was summoned twice for interrogation since.