April 18, 2013
President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir
Office of the President, People's Palace
P.O. Box 281, Khartoum
Via email: [email protected]
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, is disturbed by the ongoing campaign by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to intimidate journalists and interfere in their work, including by censoring newspapers. In particular we are concerned for the safety of the Khartoum bureau chief for international news network Al-Jazeera, Almassllmani Al-Kabashi, who has been repeatedly harassed by NISS.
Al-Kabashi told CPJ that he was summoned by the NISS three times between April 4 and 7. Over a total of 21 hours, he was asked about Al-Jazeera content in general, and specifically the network's coverage of the recent release of some political prisoners in Sudan. Al-Kabashi said his interrogators appeared to be upset that Al-Jazeera coverage mentioned other political prisoners who remain in jail.
Interrogators warned Al-Kabashi to refrain from covering specific topics, including issues of "national security" and criticism of authorities. They asked him to "coordinate" with the NISS before doing any local or international travel. When Al-Kabashi was finally released, he was told to keep his phone free in case he is summoned again for investigation.
Reporters who have written on taboo subjects such as anti-government protests, the International Criminal Court, corruption, or conflict in Darfur have faced detention and physical assault in the past. Last year, CPJ documented the case of freelance journalist Somaya Ibrahim Ismail Hundosa, who was found on the side of a road in Khartoum after being abducted and beaten by suspected NISS agents.
Your Excellency, you have recently expressed a renewed commitment to inclusive political dialogue, yet opposition groups say many political prisoners remain in jail. Furthermore, the campaign to intimidate Al-Kabashi comes amid an intensified crackdown on the Sudanese press. According to reports, NISS agents have been regularly vetting newspapers prior to publication and demanding that certain coverage be removed before printing. Agents also confiscate entire print runs before newspapers can reach the stands. And the NISS also recently forced the editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Sahafa, Al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour, to step down from his position.
Sudan cannot hold an honest dialogue with all political groups unless its media can report freely on issues of national importance. We urge you to halt all efforts at censorship, ensure the safety of reporters such as Almassllmani Al-Kabashi, and allow all journalists in Sudan to do their job without fear of reprisal. Please consider this as a matter of urgency.
John Ukec Lueth Ukec
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan
Joseph D. Stafford
U.S. Embassy Khartoum
United Nations Secretary-General
Ambassador João Vale de Almeida
Head of Delegation of European Union to the United States
Dr. Hussein Hassouna
Ambassador of the Arab League to United States