Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The government continues to place severe restrictions on the ability of media to operate freely despite constitutional provisions for freedom of expression. National security legislation and other laws empower authorities to conduct prepublication censorship, confiscate or ban publications, and detain and fine journalists. As a result, many journalists practice self-censorship. In 2004, the government instituted even harsher legal restrictions under the Sudanese Press and Printed Materials Act, which the press freedom organization Article 19 decried as rendering "independent and critical journalism virtually impossible." The quasi-official National Press Council is responsible for applying the press law and has the power to license and suspend newspapers.
There are several daily newspapers and a wide variety of Arabic- and English-language publications. While all of these are subject to censorship, some do criticize the government. Domestic broadcast media are directly controlled by the government and are required to reflect official views, though some foreign programs are available. During the year, authorities continued to crack down on independent media. In January, Mahjoud Mohamed Salid, editor in chief of the suspended newspaper Al-Ayam, was arrested on charges of tax arrears and forced to pay the government 7.28 million Sudanese pounds (about US$28,000) before being released. In April, the Khartoum bureau chief of the Qatari satellite television channel Al-Jazeera was convicted of "disseminating false news," sentenced to one month in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million Sudanese pounds (about US$3,800). In May, the government detained and released 11 journalists, 5 of whom were planning to publish a statement opposing the new press law. The other 6 journalists were arrested for an article published in the daily Al-Azmina about the collapse of the Sudanese economy. In September, Hussein Khogali, editor in chief of the daily Alwan, was imprisoned for 17 days and instructed to cease writing for his publication because of his association with Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi. In November, authorities confiscated the print run of Alwan's November 23 issue and arrested Khogali again (he was released in January 2005). On a positive note, two newspapers suspended in 2003, the Khartoum Monitor and Al-Ayam, were allowed to resume publication. Journalists are often subject to verbal and physical harassment by security forces and other armed groups.
According to the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters sans frontieres, the government has systematically prevented journalists from traveling to Darfur in order to cover the conflict there. However, the U.S. State Department claimed that the government eased restrictions on foreign journalists covering Darfur during 2004. Domestic journalists are prohibited from reporting independently from the region. Access to the Internet is limited by political and economic constraints. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, authorities blocked the U.S.-based Web site Sudanese Online in July.