State of the media



Sudanese media have been deeply affected by the 21-year civil war that finally ended in 2005 with the signing of the peace agreement, and the ongoing crisis in Darfur. After a near complete ban on publications in 1989, newspapers have resumed publication and new papers have been launched. A Reporters Without Borders team on a fact finding mission in 2007 found that the Sudanese press is both active and diverse. However, the government routinely harasses media institutions and journalists, and self-censorship is widespread. The written press has somewhat greater latitude for critical reporting than the broadcasting media that are completely controlled by the government.

 

In William A. Rugh’s classification in his Arab Mass Media (2004) the Sudanese press is identified as a “mobilization press.” Its distinguishing characteristic is that “the press does not criticize the basic policies of the national government.”

 

Written press

The press situation has improved much since the coup in 1989 when the only paper that could be published was the army newspaper. 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. Newspapers reach only a tiny segment of the population, due to extremely low circulation rates. The main newspapers are Al-Sudani, Al-Ayam, Al-Ray Al-Amm, Al-Wifaq, Al-Watan, and the Khartoum Monitor.

 

Audiovisual media

Domestic broadcast media are directly controlled by the government. State-run radio and TV reflect government policy. Sudan TV has a permanent military censor to ensure that the news reflects official views. There are no privately-owned TV stations apart from a cable service jointly owned by the government and private investors.

In spite of license requirements and high costs, satellite usage continued to rise

 

Online media

Currently there are six companies providing Internet service in Sudan. The number of users is estimated at 2.8 million as of 2006. In 2004, the Sudanese National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) decided to install censorship devices on websites. A special unit was founded to filter information accessed by Internet users in Sudan. The government claims that it is blocking pornographic websites in order to preserve social values, yet extends this to political websites and others for ideological reasons. Only a small number of newspapers have a website.

 

News agencies

The only new agency, the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) is tightly controlled by the Ministry of Information.

 

Media organizations

The Union of Sudanese Journalists is government-controlled and does not represent the views and aspirations of the profession. It is not a member of the International Federation of Journalists.

 

There is a Sudanese Human Rights organization operating from Cairo. The Sudanese Organization Against Torture is also defending press freedom.

 

Media policies

In 2005 the state of emergency was lifted after a new, less restrictive constitution was signed, thereby officially ending censorship in Sudan. The new constitution does not explicitly subordinate press freedom to the imperatives of public order, security, or morality. In 2004 the Sudanese Press and Printed Materials Act was introduced. Under the Act, media practitioners and institutions have to apply for a license on an annual basis with the Press and Printed Press Materials National Council. Applicants are required to have professional qualifications and journalists and media institutions may have their licenses revoked when they have been convicted of press offences more than once or when they breach standards of professional journalism, including a vague requirement to ‘respect chastity’. The Act also prohibits the free distribution of foreign publications.