Sudanese journalists protest against censorship

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More than 100 Sudanese journalists on Wednesday protested against censorship and other media restrictions, activists said, amid a government crackdown on unprecedented anti-regime demonstrations.

“It was a very big crowd compared to other events we organized before,” veteran journalist Faisal Mohammed Salih told AFP.

He said about 100 of his colleagues gathered in front of Sudan’s Human Rights Commission but others, blocked by state security agents, clustered nearby in three or four groups.

Security agents told the journalists not to hoist banners, Salih added.

The journalists submitted a written memo to the rights commission, “complaining about censorship and continued harassment of journalists,” he said.

“We know that they are going to do nothing but anyway they welcomed us,” and said they are working to improve freedom of expression.

Salih said there were “small clashes” with security forces and two journalists were briefly detained.

On Saturday, the spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern at “growing levels of censorship and restrictions on the media and the political opposition in Sudan, including the detention of a number of journalists and political activists.”

Canada and the UK have made similar statements since anti-regime protests sparked by rising prices began more than two weeks ago around Sudan.

The unprecedented demonstrations by students and others have been met by what the EU called “a violent crackdown.”

Armed security agents raided the AFP bureau in Khartoum and detained a freelance photographer last Friday after he arrived with pictures he had taken of an anti-regime protest.

The photographer was released after almost 24 hours.

Two weeks ago, national security agents held AFP correspondent Simon Martelli for 14 hours without charge after he talked to students and took pictures at the University of Khartoum, where the protests originated.

A correspondent for international news wire Bloomberg, Salma El Wardany, an Egyptian, was deported last week after also being detained while trying to cover the country’s protest movement.

Even before the June 16 outbreak of demonstrations against high prices, journalists and press freedom advocates said there had been a worsening government attack against critical voices over the past year, with journalists banned from writing, newspapers confiscated after printing, and some ordered to suspend publication.