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Journalists Protest Sudanese Government's Arrest of Reporters


Top Sudanese journalists are protesting the government's censorship of the press, after the unprecedented arrest of more than 60 journalists outside the country's parliament two days ago. Most Sudanese newspapers did not publish Tuesday in protest of the arrests. The next round will be in a Sudanese court, as Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

The Sudanese press and the government continue to lock horns, after the government arrested more than 60 journalists Monday, and many newspaper editors responded with a decision not to publish Tuesday.

Top newspapers, including the influential Al Ray al Ahm, were on newsstands Wednesday, although one woman journalist, who refused to give her name, insisted that journalists were "considering what the next step would be" in the ongoing, protracted battle with the government over freedom of the press.

A spokesman for the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement in Cairo, Nasr El-Din Musa Koshi, described the current situation.

He says there is no freedom of the press in Sudan and newspapers are shut down by the government once or twice a month with stringent censorship before going to press. Newspapers, he adds, have a margin of about 10 to 20 percent freedom, but when they start criticizing the government they are shut down.

Several top Sudanese political leaders, when contacted by the Voice of America, refused to comment on the situation.

In Cairo, Egyptian Press Syndicate head Makram Mohammed, who often deals with Sudanese journalists, describes the state of the media in Sudan.

He says that the Sudanese government must really be more tolerant about press freedom, rather than beating and detaining journalists, which harms Sudan's image abroad and drives a wedge between North and South. He says only a democratic atmosphere can help solve the real problems in Sudan. He also urges Sudan's President Bashir to release those journalists still under arrest.

Media reports say many Sudanese journalists arrested Monday have been released, although there are conflicting reports that some are still in detention.

Makram Mohammed argues that freedom of the press is not a given in most Arab countries, and Arab governments often find the press to be "uncomfortable."

He says many ruling parties in Arab states find freedom of the press to be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but that it is the only way for Arab society to make progress and advance. Jailing journalists, he insists, is no way to progress in today's world.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), former rebels who now govern in tandem with the Arab-led north, protested Monday's arrests and threatened not to approve the 2009 budget in retaliation.

The U.S. government also protested the arrests and has called for an end to media censorship.

The Sudanese government has set no date, as yet, but the next round in the battle with the press is due to be in court, according to several journalists who where detained and released.

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