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Amnesty International Condemns Arrest of Opposition Journalists in Sudan

  • Michael Onyiego

A Sudanese man holds three archive copies of 'Rai al-Shaab' newspaper which was confiscated, 16 May 2010.

A Sudanese man holds three archive copies of 'Rai al-Shaab' newspaper which was confiscated, 16 May 2010.

Amnesty International has urged Sudanese authorities to end their crackdown on freedom of expression, following the arrest of four employees of an opposition newspaper in a late night raid by security forces.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders is calling for the immediate release of three journalists and an employee of the daily newspaper Rai Al Shaab, who were detained late Saturday. The four have yet to be charged with a crime

The head of the National Intelligence and Security Service, General Mohammed Atta, ordered the arrest. The intelligence service also shut down the newspaper as Sunday's issue was going to print.

London-based Amnesty International is urging the government to curb the wide-ranging authority of state security agents.

The group says the arrests and the closure of the Rai Al Shaab newspaper are part of a nearly two-year campaign against media freedoms by the Sudanese government.

According to Amnesty International Sudan researcher Rania Rajji, the 2010 National Security Act passed last year has allowed the National Intelligence and Security Service to repress civil and political opposition with impunity.

"National Security officers are provided for arresting people under this act for a total period for four months and a half without any judicial oversight. This has been the major source for human-rights violations in Sudan and for violations of civil and political rights. This is why we are calling for reform on this act," Rajji said.

Sudan's Ministry of Information has accused Rai Al Shaab (Arabic for people's opinion) of publishing false information. Rights groups say the government shuttered the paper this weekend in response to an article alleging Iran had constructed a weapons factory in the country.

The ruling National Congress Party has accused the opposition People's Congress Party of planting the report in order to damage relations between the Sudanese government and the United States.

The Rai Al-Shaab editor told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists the newspaper's staff would file suit against the National Intelligence and Security Services to reopen the newspaper.