Sudan’s Media Under Fire Over Coup Coverage

When Sudan’s military ousted the country’s civilian government in October it quickly set its sights on the media.

Authorities shuttered at least 36 radio stations in the first two weeks following the coup over their reporting on protests against the Sudanese junta.

A period of instability followed during which Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was briefly reinstated before standing down in January after failing to reach a settlement between military and civilian leaders.

But months of protest and unrest were marked by an uptick in media harassment and attacks.

Between October 2021 and March 2022, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documented 55 violations against media. The Geneva-based rights group recorded arbitrary detention, harassment, raids and shutdowns of media organizations, and physical and psychological assaults.

“Restrictions were imposed on freedom of expression, there were repeated internet blackouts, and punitive measures were enforced against media outlets that covered the popular protests and human rights violations that followed the coup,” the report said.

Attacks on the press are part of a broader assault on freedoms in the country, according to Cameron Hudson, a Sudan expert at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

“The military is tightening its hold on power but doing it in a way as to undermine perceived enemies of the state. And those are democratic protesters, outspoken politicians, and members of the free press,” he told VOA.

Around 90 people have been killed and hundreds injured since October 2021, according to local and international rights groups.

Sudan’s embassy in Washington didn’t respond to VOA’s request for comment.

Security vulnerability

Observers say Sudan has experienced major security uncertainty since the overthrow of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. This uncertainty, they say, has been particularly challenging for journalists.

“Even though the media played a major role in toppling the former regime of al-Bashir, unfortunately, there is still a crackdown on journalists and media outlets,” said Amany El Sayed, who anchors a weekly show on the national Sudan TV.

“In Sudan today, you

 you can criticize the government, including ministers and other high-ranking officials, just like what I’m doing now by speaking with you. But it seems the military particularly targets those who cover anti-coup protests,” El Sayed told VOA from Khartoum.

Article 57 of Sudan’s constitutional document, adopted in October 2019, stipulates that the state “guarantees freedom of the press.”

But in a fluid political and security environment, “the margin of freedom that journalists have can easily be disrupted by those who don’t tolerate critical voices,” El Sayed said.

“Journalists could be beaten and arrested, and even their families could be threatened if a certain authority didn’t like their reporting,” she added.

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