|08KHARTOUM1629||2008-11-08 09:48:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Khartoum|
VZCZCXRO6577 RR RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV DE RUEHKH #1629 3130948 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 080948Z NOV 08 FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2260 INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001629
1. U) SUMMARY: Sudanese dailies Ajras Al Hurriya and Rai Al Shaab,
in a show of solidarity with 46 modern-minded "democratic"
columnists, took up a protest on November 4 against increasing
censorship by state security organs, which have censored the
editorial content of the publications. The dailies both confirm
that they halted publication for three days, November 5-7, to
protest what they view as an infringement on press freedom. Staff
members of both newspapers staged a 24-hour hunger strike that ended
at 1:00 pm, November 5. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) None of Khartoum's pro-government newspapers reported on this
protest. The only Khartoum daily to provide coverage was
independent, English-language "Khartoum Monitor."
3. (U) "Sudaneseonline.com" noted on November 5: "Publishers of two
Sudanese dailies say they will stop printing their newspapers for
three days to protest state censorship. Salah Kajam, publisher of
the independent pro-south daily Freedom Bells, says government
agents often come at night and order the removal of articles, citing
security concerns. His paper and another, affiliated with an
Islamist opposition leader, will halt publication until Friday.
Other journalists said Tuesday they are planning a 24-hour hunger
strike in protest. There was no immediate government comment.
Lawyers say they have challenged the new wave of censorship, which
started in February, with a law suit in the constitutional court."
The same website ran an AFP report noting that Sudanese journalists
had launched a mass hunger strike on Tuesday, and that three
independent newspapers had stopped work for three days in the
country's biggest organized media protest against censorship.
4. (U)Charge d'Affaires Fernandez, accompanied by the PAO, visited
Ajras Al-Hurriya on Novemebr 6 to express U.S. Government support
for press freedom in Sudan. Editor-in -Chief Murtada Elghali
Elgaali Hussain, who participated in a 2006 Post-funded program for
Human Rights Advocates, and Director of the Board Deng Goc, provided
an overview of the newspaper's standing with the Press and
Publications Council, indicating that there are 17 cases pending
against them. They noted a particular taboo was any criticism of the
much-touted (by the regime) Sudan People's Initiative (SPI), which
is supposed to try to solve the Darfur crisis.
7. (SUB) COMMENT: With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement in 2005, which ended the two-decade long war between the
north and south, media censorship was significantly eased,
particularly in the south. However, in recent months, especially
since the JEM rebel attack on Omdurman in May 2008, the GoS has
begun to restrict print journalists' ability to publish freely.
With Presidential elections in Sudan scheduled for 2009, State
security mechanisms are gradually tightening their grip on media.
Their intent appears to be to limit the range of issues covered in
the press, accustom journalists to repression and self-censorship
and also stifle any points of view that differ with the GoS. In
response, this week's protest by the three newspapers seeks to call
public awareness to this rise in censorship. According to editors,
their next step will be to stop publication of any single issue in
which the censors cut three columns or more.