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Cablegate: Newspaper Censorship in Khartoum - a Case Study

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OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1735 3371057
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021057Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2444
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001735

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPAO KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: NEWSPAPER CENSORSHIP IN KHARTOUM - A CASE STUDY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Since the beginning of the year, censorship of
Khartoum-based newspapers has increased dramatically. Below is the
account of Suleiman Al-Amin, a popular columnist with "Al-Sudani," a
publication that has seen its share of harassment and censorship
recently. Al-Amin described the silencing of media in Khartoum as
part of a cyclical pattern by the Sudanese regime, but noted that
the latest actions of exerting control are the most extreme he has
seen in years. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Suleiman Al-Amin, a recent participant in the
International Visitor Leadership Program (where he covered the U.S.
presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi) has seen his last two
columns completely stricken from publication. The first, originally
to be published on November 24, was about student elections at the
University of Khartoum. The second, planned for publication on
November 30, was ironically about his previous column being
censored. (Sensing this would happen, Al-Amin said that he wrote it
with the censors in mind as part of his audience.)

3. (SBU) Al-Amin believes the censoring of his last two columns
shows that the Government of Sudan has lost its legitimacy. "Like a
fish when the water runs out the drain," Al-Amin sees the increased
level of censorship at newspapers across the political spectrum in
Khartoum as an "act of desperation." According to Al-Amin, for the
past two months, when authorities come to the offices of the
newspapers at 9pm each night to review the next day's edition, they
now bring three censors instead of one, "just to make sure." On a
more personal level, Al-Amin has been harassed at work and at home
by prying security officials over the past year, and says his
daughter (who is studying law at university in Khartoum) has been
threatened as well.

4. (SBU) Scrutiny at "Al-Sudani" has been particularly harsh since
the paper reported in February 2008 that the National Intelligence
and Security Service (NISS) had supplied approximately 300 Toyota
trucks to Chadian rebels to assist in their siege on N'Djamena.
However, it appears that the tightened screws of censorship extend
across the aisles in Khartoum. According to Al-Amin, "Al-Intibaha,"
the frothingly Islamist, pro-GoS newspaper, also gets regular visits
from security officials. When asked about the prospect that a new
media law might improve the situation for journalists in Sudan,
Al-Amin laughed and commented that "law is just a decoration for the
government right now. Until elections, there will be no real
toleration of criticism."

5. (SBU) COMMENT: What the U.S. Embassy has heard over the past
several weeks from Al-Amin is very similar to anecdotal evidence
passed from other reporters and columnists throughout the past year.
The Khartoum regime appears to be switching from its carrot
methodology to the stick approach in its treatment of journalists,
with tactics ranging from increased editorial scrutiny to
mass-arrests in advance of a new Press Law which should end such
practices. Even if the draft media law that is currently before
Parliament is approved in one form or another, we expect continued
harassment and censorship - perhaps with some symbolic gestures to
feign improvement - primarily for the consumption of the
international community.

FERNANDEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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