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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

43rd Session, Ezulwini, Swaziland

SUDAN ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE (SOAT)

43rd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Ezulwini, Swaziland

22 May 2008

Oral Statement Under Agenda Item 7: Freedom of Expression


Thank you to the Commission for giving us the floor.

The Sudan Organisation Against Torture welcomes the fact that according to the timetable set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the civil war in Southern Sudan in 2005, next year Sudan should hold its first democratic national elections for more than two decades.

In order for these elections to be free and fair, however, it is absolutely crucial that freedom of expression should be protected in order to allow an open public debate incorporating a range of political viewpoints.

Unfortunately, over the past three months the Sudanese authorities have launched a harsh crackdown on the media. As a result, the situation of freedom of expression in Sudan is worse now than it has been for several years.

Since early February, security agents have been visiting newspaper offices on a daily basis to check the contents of each edition prior to publication. They have routinely ordered the removal or amendment of articles which diverge from the official line. They have been particularly tough on articles which refer to human rights issues in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. In some cases, newspapers – including Rai al-Shaab, al-Ayyam, al-Sudani, al-Ahdath and Ajras al-Huriyya – have been prevented from publishing.

Besides direct pre-print censorship, the latest crackdown on the Sudanese media has also involved bureaucratic obstruction and the arrests of at least seven journalists in February in connection with their reporting on personnel changes in the top ranks of the police service.

All of this is in addition to the usual problems faced by Sudanese journalists, including restrictive existing media laws, malicious prosecutions and bans on reporting on certain sensitive subjects.

The Sudan Organisation Against Torture calls upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to call upon the Government of Sudan:

- To immediately cease all forms of pre- and post-print censorship
- And to take all necessary steps to guarantee the independence of the media and to expedite the introduction of new media laws in line with international human rights standards and Sudan’s own Interim National Constitution.

Thank you Madam Chair.

_________________________________________

For more information please contact:

Sudan Organisation Against Torture
Argo House
Kilburn Park Road
London
NW6 5LF
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7625 8055
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7372 2656
Email: info@soatsudan.org
Website: www.soatsudan.org

 

 

 

 

 

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