Freedom of the Press 2004

The government continues to place severe restrictions on the ability of the media to operate freely despite constitutional provisions for freedom of expression. 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. National security legislation empowers authorities to conduct prepublication censorship, confiscate or ban publications, and detain journalists. As a result, many journalists practice self-censorship. The quasi-official National Press Council is responsible for applying the press law and has the power to license and suspend newspapers. Despite a presidential decree in August promising to ease press restrictions, authorities continued to crack down on the media. In November, the Khartoum Monitor, Sudan's only English-language daily, was suspended for the seventh time in 2003 and remained shut down at year's end. The newspaper was charged with "crimes against the state" (among other allegations) for publishing articles addressing controversial issues such slavery, peace accord negotiations, and the independence of the Sudanese judiciary. Also in 2003, the government forcibly suspended a number of print media outlets, including Alwan, Al-Azminah, Al-Ayyam, Al-Captain, Al-Sahafa, Al-Watan, and Raai al-Shaab, as well as the Khartoum bureau of the Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera. Sudanese authorities and security personnel routinely confiscate newspaper copies containing articles covering sensitive issues or deemed critical of the government. Under the penal code, propagating false news is punishable by either a prison term or a fine. Journalists are often subject to verbal and physical harassment by police and security forces, and some are detained without any specific charges. In November, Khartoum Monitor editor Nhial Bol fled to Kenya following repeated arrests and threats on his life, including a car accident that many in the press freedom community believed to be a deliberate attempt by the state to kill him.

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score

(0 = best, 100 = worst)
(0 = best, 40 = worst)
(0 = best, 30 = worst)