July 20, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Hundreds of Sudanese journalists have demonstrated in the capital, Khartoum on Sunday to protest against the assault carried out by unknown gunmen against the editor-in-chief of Al-Tayyar newspaper, Osman Mirghani.
A group of masked gunmen on Saturday stormed the building of Al-Tayyar daily newspaper in Khartoum and assaulted Mirghani. They also confiscated all cellular phones and laptops of the newspaper’s staff and attacked several journalists before leaving.
About 500 journalists had gathered outside Al-Tayyar headquarters in Khartoum before marching to the National Council for Press and Publications (NCPP) holding banners calling for freedom of expression and press.
The protestors handed the NCPP a memorandum demanding it to bear its responsibilities in protection of journalists.
The head of the NCPP, Ali Shomo, described the assault against Mirghani as “brutal, savage, and strange”, stressing that free opinion must not be faced by beating and threats.
Shomo, who addressed protestors in front of the NCPP headquarters, underscored the need for making a solid stance against this type of “terrorism”, calling upon police to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
He added that if Mirghani’s opinion doesn’t appeal to other people, they should talk to him instead of using force, saying that “brave men” do not resort to this kind of practice.
Shomo further asserted the NCPP supports freedom of expression and opinion, noting if press were not free, it means that it is not press.
The head of the pro-government journalists syndicate, Muhy al-Din Titawi, described the assault as “cowardly act” which we must denounce, saying they refuse to respond to opinion through violence.
Meanwhile, the Reform Now Party (RNP) led by Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani, condemned the assault on Mirghani and Al-Tayyar.
It said in a statement on Sunday that the criminal attack against Mirghani reflects the painful and miserable situation in the country, adding that free people are being targeted by those who lack morals and values.
The RNP pointed the country reached a point where the social contract between the state and people has decayed to the extent that some social components are adopting the “law of the jungle”.
It considered the assault an attempt to confiscate the divine rights of freedom of expression and opinion, calling for conducting an investigation on the incident and bringing perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.
X-rays and medical tests which were conducted to Mirghani have shown that no serious injuries exist but some bruises in the head and the right eye.
Mirghani has recently debated in a TV talk show program the issue of normalising relations with Israel. He also wrote a column on the same issue in Al-Tayyar.
He said in reply to his critics that the program was recorded more than three weeks ago but broadcasted in conjunction with the Israeli attack on Gaza strip, questioning the timing of the broadcast.
On the day of the incident, Mirghani wrote a column criticising an Imam (prayer leader) of one of Khartoum’s mosques who denied asking Allah’s (God) mercy and forgiveness for the famous Sudanese musician and violinist, Mohamed Abdallah, who passed away last week.
PRESIDENCY ORDERS CULPRITS’ ARREST
Sudanese vice-president Hasabo Abdel Rahman told journalists on Sunday that the presidency instructed the security service and the police to take the necessary measures to arrest the assailants who attacked Mirhgani and to bring them to justice.
Speaking during a Ramadan breakfast organised by the Sudanese Journalists Union on Sunday, Abdel Rahman condemned the attack and said that all the security agencies are currently working to catch the perpetrators of the attack.
He further said that the presidency also instructed that the headquarters of newspapers be protected.
The leader of the National Umma Party who participated at the journalists’ breakfast asked the government agencies to quickly arrest the culprits. He also called to impose the maximum penalties on attackers in order to dissuade similar assaults on journalists in the future.
Meanwhile the director of criminal police in Khartoum state, Maj-General Abdel Aziz Hussein Awad stated on Sunday night that police forces are able to identify the offenders, adding they have already collected information about them but refused to elaborate on the ongoing investigations.
Mirghani’s incident is a reminiscent of that of Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed, former editor-in-chief of al-Wifaq newspaper.
Ahmed, was snatched from his home in a northern district of Khartoum by masked gunmen in September 2006 a day before his decapitated body was found.
The previous year, he had sparked controversy when his paper republished an article from the Internet that questioned the parentage of the Prophet Muhammad. Death threats were issued against him by angry Muslims, and the paper was fined by the government.