Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression
Sudan: Nhial Bol, editor-in-chief of the Sudanese newspaper “The Citizen” has been detained following a civil law suit
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information demands the immediate release of Nhial Bol
Cairo, 13th October, 2008
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today condemned the detention of the Sudanese journalist Nhial Bol, editor-in-chief of the Sudanese daily newspaper "The Citizen" and former managing director and reporter on ”The Khartoum Monitor”. He has been in prison since last Friday after his arrest for publishing an article criticizing corruption in the semi-autonomous region of the South of Sudan.
The police arrested and detained him, after a civil case accusing him of defamation and disseminating false information, following the publication of his article on 7th of October. The article criticized the minister of legal affairs in the Southern Sudanese government who presides over the ministry in which employees’ salaries had previously been frozen by the Southern Sudanese president.
"The case should have been a civil case, but I have been told that I will remain in detention for three days with no chance of being released on bail", stated Bol, who believes that he should not have been arrested at all as he had verified the facts before he published them and at the most he should have been tried in the civil court.
It is worth mentioning that Nhial had previously been detained last August for publishing articles about corruption in other southern Sudanese ministries.
Bol, when he was editor- in-chief of the English speaking daily newspaper "The Khartoum Monitor", was also arrested for publishing articles on "sensitive" issues relating to the state's discrimination against Christians and also about slavery. For these offences he was sentenced to imprisonment with hard labor, and was fined. The newspaper itself was also fined, and closed down for two months, after the verdict in a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Islamic Awkaf (Endowments) following charges of “insulting Islam”, “propagation of slavery” and “endangering the unity of Sudan”. “The Citizen” newspaper has been closed in Juba since last September, though it is still being published in Khartoum.
Press freedom is officially protected by the Sudanese Temporary Constitution, which was drafted at the time of the Comprehensive Peace Accord(CPA) bringing to an end twenty years of Civil war, and signed by both the Sudanese government and the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement in 2005. Despite this the Sudanese government has reverted to the type of censorship procedures used before the CPA agreement, especially since the beginning of this year. The government insists a copy of every newspaper be brought to the information department of the Sudanese intelligence apparatus for pre-printing approval. An intelligence officer is assigned to each newspaper, together with a list of so called “sensitive" issues which includes the Darfur conflict, the Abyei region argument, and dam Schemes in northern Sudan. These subjects are prohibited along with any criticism of the president, the army, and the intelligence services.
The Sudanese government has also enforced a state of emergency law which confers on security forces the right to arrest and detain individuals for 90 days without brining any charges against them.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) voices their deep concern about freedom and the human rights situation in Sudan. Hence, (ANHRI) appeals to the Sudanese government to immediately release Bol. ANHRI considers Nihal Bol as a prisoner of conscience, and declares that he is only being punished for publicizing corruption and criticizing the government's policies which discriminate against citizens on religious and racial grounds. ANHRI requests that the Sudanese government comply with the constitution, which represents an important part of the peace agreement signed by the Sudanese government as well as all the international treaties and conventions that provide for the protection of the freedom of expression and press freedom.