Monday, April 27, 2009

Anger in Sudan over 'repressive' draft press law

A draft press law that would give authorities in Sudan powers to impose heavy fines or even close down newspapers has the country's media up in arms.

Africa's largest country boasts around 30 titles in both English and Arabic published daily and representing all persuasions -- pro-government, Islamist or even communist -- showing off the country's multi-faceted political make-up.

Already newspapers are screened by state censors every night before hitting the stands, but the new bill, which was submitted to parliament last week, would impose 50,000 Sudanese pound (21,500 dollar) fines for "infractions" and allow a Press Council to close down newspapers.

"In the beginning the censors stopped you publishing certain issues, now they are asking why you do not cover (President Omar al-) Beshir's visits and pro-Beshir demonstrations," complained Al-Haj Ali Waraq Sid Ahmed, managing editor of the daily Ajras Al-Huriyya (Bells of Freedom).

"Now they are putting more of an agenda," he said.

In a recent report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the draft law as "repressive" and "vague." MORE BY AFP

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