The largest country in the African continent is Sudan. The population in the country is more or less 33 million that speaks about 130 languages/dialects. Majority of the people are Africans and Arabs. Even though the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was endorsed by Sudanese government in 1986 that guaranteed the right to freedom of expression and press in 1998 constitution, there is no actual practice of this right. Sudan is one of the very few countries where media is under heavy restriction and the related personnel are subjected to high control and regulation (Salam & Waal, 2001).
The National Press Council is the supervisory authority that is responsible for issuing licenses and managing/maintaining media. It is required of the newspapers and journalists to verify their licenses with the Council on an annual basis. Thus, it won’t be incorrect to state that it is extremely difficult for an individual to become a reporter/journalist in Sudan as there are various stipulations in the law about who may or may not be employed as a reporter/journalist. It is also very difficult to publish a newspaper in Sudan as there are several other stipulations in the law about what standard must a newspaper have to acquire license and regarding the content that may or may not be reported. The Press also sanctions anyone who fails to comply with the requirements mentioned. The foreign media that wants to visit the country is also liable to get accredited by the NPC. As far as the newspaper advertising is concerned, it is also controlled and allocated by the Government.
The National Security Act is the most dominant limitation on the freedom of expression in the country as it grants the security services the right to confiscate and get hold of people without legal supervision. There is no restriction on the personnel in those services. There are many journalists that have been put into jail. Moreover, many press runs have been seized by the government and many newspapers have been closed. For instance, Al-Watan (a newspaper) was suspended by the security police just because it published articles about government corruption. Restrictions are also imposed on international journalists. Similar is the case with the use of Internet. It won’t be incorrect to state that Sudan has no respect and reverence for the freedom of speech, freedom of connection, contribution and nonviolent assemblage. If truth be told, the regime in Sudan is one of the worst regimes in the world when it comes to the access to free and assorted information, online and offline together. Reporters without Borders conducted a worldwide study regarding press freedom and ranked Sudan at 170 in one hundred and seventy0nine countries. In simple, people are not even allowed to express their views freely online and the online users are also impacted by this freedom of expression’s violation (“Freedom on the Internet in Sudan”).
People in Sudan have frequently voiced their concerns about the government’s policy towards freedom of expression and speech. Since 2010, the Sudanese Government has given a brutal response to the wave of protests with unparalleled bloodshed and hostility toward the citizens even though the protests had been peaceful. In Khartoum and Wad Madani alone, two hundred people were killed by the law enforcement personnel. In addition, detention has been given to more or less 600 people. Plans for economic austerity also catalyzed such protests in 2012 resulting in the implementation of “a large-scale crackdown and detentions of citizens and activists using digital platforms to communicate, connect, coordinate and mobilize” by the Sudanese authorities (“Sudan”).
For all the reasons mentioned above, the Freedom House has given Sudan a press status of “Not Free” (“Sudan”). The Sudanese citizens have shown a deep concern about the existing crack down on freedom of expression in the country. This attitude of the government prevents newspapers, reporters and media to carry out their responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner. If truth be told, it is the ultimate violation of freedom of expression and speech and the human rights obligations of Sudan. This is the high time in today’s contemporary era for putting a stop to this ridiculous and unjustified practice of censorship in Sudan. It is important to mention here that pre-print censorship in the country was ended in 2009 but afterwards, it was restored. Sudanese government must release the journalists it has detained; immediately and unconditionally. Journalists must be given a free hand in presenting realities before the public and any type of harassment must be stopped so that they can do their work in an efficient and effective manner.
As far as the media in the country is concerned, journalists and owners of media outlets must also not involve themselves in corruption. In Sudan, ownership information about media outlets is secretive and the status is not disclosed by the owners. This is to avoid giving taxes and refrain from any attacks. Unfortunately, the corruption has reached these outlets as well and journalists do anything to earn money. All such practices need immediate measures to give Sudan its deserved freedom of speech and expression. It is exceedingly necessary for the journalists and editors to realize and understand their basic responsibility and stop getting money from politicians by selling out coverage. In addition, there shall be no authorization of media outlets. Last but not the least; media practitioners must recognize and develop a self-regulation system to govern the profession in a legitimate way (Kersch, 2003).
As far as the Sudanese government is concerned, it is the high time for it to give way to media freedom. Only then it can bring peace and harmony in the country for the establishment of an efficient democratic system. The country desperately needs a governmental and strategic process for the implementation of the Interim Constitution. It is the need of the modern era that the Sudanese officials respect and give assurance to the Freedom of Expression and rights of people and/or media according to the international standards (Kersch, 2003). The most important thing that needs to be realized by the Sudanese government is that freedom of speech and expression is one of the basic human rights. Therefore, it should not interfere with the people autonomy or media sovereignty.
Freedom on the Internet in Sudan | GIRIFNA. (n.d.). GIRIFNA RSS. Retrieved February 16, 2014, from http://www.girifna.com/8819
Kersch, K. I. (2003). Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties under the Law. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO.
Salam, A. H., & Waal, A. (2001). The Phoenix State: Civil Society and the Future of Sudan. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press.
Sudan. (n.d.). Freedom House. Retrieved February 16, 2014, from http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2013/sudan#.Uv_FhvmSxZ8