News24

Sudan halts papers critical of South govt

2010-07-06 15:31

Khartoum - Government agents on Tuesday halted distribution of newspapers considered critical of the authorities in South Sudan, six months ahead of a referendum that could pave the way for the independence of the vast region, journalists said.

Three dailies, Al-Tayyar, Al-Intibaha and Al-Ahdath, all deemed to be critical in one way or another of the South Sudan authorities, were not available on the streets of the capital on Tuesday, according to journalists working on the publications.

"At 12:30, the security services called the printers to order them not to distribute the first edition of the newspaper," Osman Mirghani, managing editor of Al-Tayyar, said.

"They then went to the printers, read the newspaper and raised objections to an article concerning clashes between the (southern) Murle and Dinka tribes," he added.

"They said they did not want anything negative published in connection with the South Sudan government or the SPLM (the former southern rebels)."

Opposition and independent papers have complained that media censorship and repression have made a comeback in Sudan since the re-election in April of President Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir had last September announced the lifting of press censorship, ending a system under which newspapers were screened by censors every night to purge sensitive articles before publication.

But newspapers were also informed of red lines that should not be crossed, including matters of national security and articles sensitive to public morality in the conservative Muslim-majority country.

In past weeks the authorities have shut an opposition newspaper, Rai al-Shaab, while intelligence services have visited several opposition and independent papers in Khartoum demanding that several articles be removed.

The United States has voiced new criticism of Sudan for increased repression and a "deteriorating environment".

Southerners are to vote in a January 2011 referendum that could lead to the independence of South Sudan, which has vast and largely untapped natural resources, including oil.

The referendum is a central plank of a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of war between Sudan's north and south.