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)
Despite the lifting of the 1989 state of emergency and the signing of a new, less restrictive constitution, the government continued to severely hinder the ability of media to operate freely. In July, President Omar al-Bashir and then vice president John Garang (the former leader of the southern rebel separatist group, Sudan People's Liberation Army) signed into law a new constitution that did not explicitly subordinate press freedom to the imperatives of public order, security, or morality. The following day, the state of emergency was lifted, formally ending censorship in Sudan. Nevertheless, throughout 2005 the government-via the National Security Office-engaged in prepublication censorship, confiscated and banned publications, and detained journalists. As a result, many journalists practice self-censorship. The quasi-official National Press Council (NPC) is responsible for applying the Press Law and has the power to license and suspend newspapers and journalists-a power that was employed numerous times in 2005.
During the year, authorities cracked down on independent media and journalists were often subject to verbal and physical harassment by security forces and other armed groups. After the editor of the daily Al-Wafaq was arrested on criminal blasphemy charges in May, the NPC suspended the newspaper's publishing license for three days and the criminal court subsequently fined the daily about SDD732,000 (approximately US$3,200) and suspended the publication for three months. Later that month, security forces raided the offices of the English-language daily Khartoum Monitor and banned publication of the May 21 issue because of a report and an editorial covering violent riots in the Soba Aradi displaced peoples' camp. One month later, the Khartoum Monitor was ordered to close by the Supreme Court, in a special court proceeding to which the newspaper had not been invited, for publishing an interview accusing the government of practicing slavery. The ban was revoked in July after the lifting of the state of emergency. However, in August police stopped the publication of two opposition Arabic-language dailies-Al-Watan and Al-Wan-after raiding the printing press that served both newspapers. Although no explanation was given, Al-Watan editor Tahir Sati attributed the raid to critical reporting of the government's handling of riots following the death of Garang in a plane crash. Al-Wan had previously faced injustice from the government when, in 2004, editor Hussein Khogali was arrested and held for more than a month in secret detention without charge (permissible under the National Security Act). He was released without explanation in early January 2005.
While foreign journalists were allowed to cover events in war-torn Darfur during the year, domestic journalists were prohibited from reporting independently from the region. Several journalists, including American photographer Brad Clift, were detained for lacking the proper licenses to work in Darfur; however, all were later released.
There are several daily newspapers and a wide variety of Arabic- and English-language publications. Although all of these are subject to scrutiny and harassment, 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. In spite of license requirements and high costs, satellite usage continued to rise. Access to the internet is not restricted by the government but is limited to 3 percent of the population by economic and social constraints.