Two journalists could be hanged for discussing secession

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn that two newspaper journalists based in the eastern city of Port Sudan have been accused of trying to overthrow the constitution, a charge punishable by hanging, just for raising the possibility of eastern Sudan’s secession in an article.

The press freedom organization calls on the judicial authorities to see reason. It is utterly unacceptable that these journalists are facing a possible death sentence. The courts must respect the Sudanese constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

The two journalists – Abdelgader Bakash and Abouisha Kazem, the editor of the weekly Bar’ut – were arrested in Port Sudan on 10 January, one day after Kazem published an article by Bakash referring to the start on 9 January of a referendum on self-determination for South Sudan and calling for self-determination for the extremely impoverished east of the country.

After 11 days, the journalists were transferred to Khartoum, where they appeared in court yesterday. Trying to overthrow the constitution was the most serious of the eight charges brought against them. The hearing was adjourned pending the arrival of witnesses from Port Sudan.

“The death penalty is in itself a human rights violation and applying to two people just for writing an article just compounds its monstrosity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities should be magnanimous about an article inspired by the example of South Sudan. It is natural that the historic referendum in the south should prompt a political debate which these two journalists just reflected, exercising their right to freely impart information.”

In other developments, the authorities blocked the printing of the newspaper Ajras al-Huriya on 20 January, delaying its publication by several hours, and arrested Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, the owner of the newspaper Rai al-Shaab, on 18 January. The authorities closed Rai al-Shaab on 16 May and three of its journalists are serving jail sentences. More information.

Photo : AFP

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