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Sudan: End Harassment of Journalist and Human Rights Defender Faisal Mohammed Salih

The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) should stop harassing human rights defenders and journalists in Sudan and drop the charges against Mr. Faisal Mohammed Salih, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and Journalists for Human Rights said today.

Mr. Salih, director of Teeba Press, former chief editor of Al-adwaa newspaper and a columnist, has been arbitrarily arrested and detained on three separate occasions on 8th, 9th and 15th May 2012. This follows almost two weeks of harassment by the National Intelligence and Security Services in Khartoum, who required him to report to their offices on a daily basis where he would be kept for the whole day. The arrests began after he refused to continue reporting voluntarily. On 15th May, Mr. Salih was charged with failure to cooperate with the order of a public officer to report at an appointed time and place.

Mr. Salih, was summoned to the NISS offices in Khartoum, Bahri near Shendi bus station on 25th April 2012 for an interrogation where he was detained from about 8pm to midnight without being questioned. This followed an interview aired on Al- Jazeera television on 19th April in which he criticized a speech given by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on the conflict in Heglig. During the interview, Mr. Salih expressed concern that the positions taken at the time by the parties involved in the conflict risked straining the political, security and military situation and entailing more humanitarian and human rights violations. Mr. Salih was warned to be cautious when speaking to foreign media and was instructed to return the following day to continue what the NISS officials termed the “dialogue”.

On 26th April, Mr. Salih reported to the NISS offices, but was detained for several hours from 9am to 5pm without any investigations. Until 6th May, Mr. Salih was required to attend the NISS office on an almost daily basis staying the whole day without being interviewed.  On 1st May, he informed the NISS that he would not be returning voluntarily, but received a formal request requiring him to continue reporting until 6th May and was warned that there would be consequences if he did not comply.

On 7th May, Mr. Salih reported to the office and later sent a message to family members and friends, including human rights activists, about his ordeal, which was then posted on the Sudanese Online website. He resolved not to turn up at the offices again. Consequently on 8th May, he did not report to the NISS offices and was arrested at around 11.45am and detained for about 8 hours at the NISS offices. During his detention he was denied food and water. He was later released and told to report the following morning, which he refused to do. On 9th May, at about 11.30 am, he was re-arrested at his home. He was released on the same day at about 6 pm and asked to sign an order to attend the NISS offices the following day, he refused to sign and NISS agents were brought to witness his refusal.

On 15th May 2012, Mr. Salih was again arrested just before 10am. At midday he was taken to the public prosecutor, where he was charged under article 94 of the Penal Code for failure to cooperate with the order of a public officer to report at an appointed time and place. He was released on bail at 5.30pm. This offense carries a maximum penalty of one month’s imprisonment and/or a fine. EHAHRDP and JHR believe that the charges against Mr. Salih should be immediately dropped.

Mr. Salih had previously been arrested in June 2011, charged with criminal defamation and accused of ruining the reputation of NISS for writing a column on the rape of Safia Ishaag, a human rights activist, by NISS agents. Other Sudanese journalists also faced repercussions for reporting on this case. On 13th May, Mr. Salih attended a court hearing in relation to this case, but the judge adjourned the court session to 11th June as the complainant (NISS) was absent.

“The Sudanese authorities continue to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and journalists,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of EHAHRDP. “They should drop these totally unfounded charges against Mr. Salih and allow journalists to carry out their legitimate work.”

The National Intelligence and Security Services continue to impose increased restrictions on freedom of expression in Sudan in response to protests inspired by the uprisings in North Africa.  The severe restrictions on media freedoms include censoring journalists, confiscating and preventing distribution of newspapers and charging journalists with spurious crimes.

For more information please contact:
Hassan Shire, Executive Director at [email protected] or +256 772 753 753
Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer at [email protected] or +256 312 265 821
Faisal Elbagir, Journalists for Human Rights-JHR-Sudan at [email protected] or +254 703 515 292