Court closes Sudan's Khartoum Monitor

Sudan’s only English-language newspaper has been ordered to cease publication while its licence is reviewed, the newspaper’s editor said on Sunday.

Editor William Ezekiel said he received a letter from Sudan’s Press Council saying the Supreme Court had decided to revoke the Khartoum Monitor‘s licence while it reviewed a 2003 court case finding the newspaper guilty of crimes against the state when it published a story about slavery in southern Sudan.

The newspaper successfully appealed the decision and “from there we were working normally, until today, so it was a surprise to us really”, said Ezekiel by telephone from Khartoum.

Ezekiel said he would seek legal advice, while telling his 50 or so staff not to return to work.

“This cannot have happened in one day, or a week. It is something planned by the government,” Ezekiel said.

Ezekiel said that for the past two months the Monitor has had to send its articles to the government’s security headquarters for censorship.

“They remove what they want to remove, they ask me to replace things and then they give me permission to take the paper to the printing house,” he said.

The Monitor, an independent newspaper, has had its licence suspended in the past for publishing articles critical of the government. The paper is particularly known for criticism of conditions in southern Sudan, scene of a 20-year civil war that ended early this year with the signing of a peace agreement between the government and southern rebels.

Ezekiel accused the Sudanese government of invoking the order because it wasn’t ready to implement a proper peace accord.

“There will be rule of law, there will be freedom [once law and order are restored], the government won’t be able to escape accountability,” Ezekiel said.

Sudan has a history of suspending newspapers and detaining journalists.
The government has officially lifted state censorship of newspapers, but press restrictions continue.

Last month, the pro-Islamist Al Wifaq daily was indefinitely suspended for running articles considered blasphemous. Editor Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed was arrested for violating a three-day suspension order and ignoring another ruling banning the media from writing about the case. - Sapa-AP

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