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Sudan journalists protest against new press law

May 19, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — More than 50 Sudanese journalists protested outside the National Assembly in Omdurman on Tuesday against a draft law of press largely criticized for repressive articles it includes.

Sudanese men read sports news in the absence of ten political newspapers in Khartoum on November 18, 2008 (AFP)

The new press bill put the media and the media houses under the control of the Sudanese presidency which appoint 8 of the 21 members of the Press Council. No media house will be established or journalist authorized to exercise this activity without a licensing from the council.

Also the disputed bill allows the council to close newspapers and authorizes the judge to impose 50,000 new Sudanese pound fines for infractions.

"Sudanese Journalists Network", which includes hundreds of independent journalists said that it organized the protest against the new draft press law because it limits the freedom of the press and impose restrictions on journalists and frightens them by "an arsenal of sanctions."

The demonstration comes as the Sudanese parliament begun today to discuss the contested draft of the press law.

Some 150 legislators from the SPLM and opposition National Democratic Alliance boycotted the discussion to mark their position from this bill restrictive of press freedom.

Yasir Arman, the leader of the SPLM bloc at the federal parliament said they walked out of today’s session after their failure to agree with their partner le National Congress Party on the draft law.

The SPLM deputy secretary general, who asked to discard all the articles opposed to the press freedom, further dismissed statements made by NCP leaders that the draft law had been formulated by the SPLM.

The current press law of 2004 is still in force despite its incompatibility with the 2005 peace deal and the interim constitution as well as the international freedom of expression standards.

There is a consensus among the Sudanese journalists even the pro-government press council criticized the current draft law.

The Sudanese journalists have repeatedly complained about print-run seizures and other harassment that the security services exercise every day.Since the indictment of the Sudanese President by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last July, Sudanese security intensified press censorship.

(ST)