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“All too often we, the Sudanese people, have the feeling that we are left alone”

Catherine Antoine, Faisal Salih, Somaya Salih, Delphine Halgand


Speaking soon after receiving the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism from chief guest and keynote speaker, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Sudanese editor and journalist Faisal Mohamed Salih highlighted strength the Sudanese press corps derived from unity in the face of political repression and coercion of the media by the country’s President Omar al-Bashir and his government.  


 

“Sudanese journalists are not giving up. They face harassment, detention and threat of violence with great courage and honesty. They are doing all they can to serve their citizens right to know,” Salih told the gathering.
Speaking of controls on the media by the government he said, “The media in Sudan faces many problems and challenges; it operates in a difficult and harsh atmosphere. We are among very few countries in the world which still practice pre-printing censorship, and with few exceptions, the Radio and TV stations are under full government ownership and control.
“All newspapers are privately owned, but government hands are playing everywhere. Newspapers and Journalists face much suppression, all types of harassment, censorship, detention and are all too often banned from writing. Newspapers are regularly confiscated, after printing, closed and licenses withdrawn. All these practices are legalized under the National Security Act of 2010, which gives security organs free hand over the media.
[Please see these links for this blog’s coverage of Sudan and Salih: one, two, three, four, five, six]
Salih’s speech at the Award ceremony…
Honourable guests, Dear Sirs and Madams: It is great honour for me to be standing in front of you today, here in the National Press Club, in Washington, to accept the prestigious Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
Allow me first to thank the PETER MACKLER AWARD, The Global media Forum, and the American Branch of the Reporters without Boarders (Reporters Sans Frontiers) for honouring me with this Award. An award that I would never have imagined I would receive.
In a very hot day, as usual in Khartoum summer days, I received an email from Camille Mackler from the Peter Mackler Award , telling me that I have been selected to receive the 2013 award. To be honest with you, it was the first time for me to hear of the Award, so it was a double surprise. But my real feeling at that time was more than just a surprise; that there are some people in this world who monitor and commend our efforts, and know something about us. It is that we are not alone.
It is true, ladies and gentlemen that, all too often we, the Sudanese people, have the feeling that we are left alone.
I come from a devastated, war torn country, divided by social, political, and security crises. And sadly none of this is new, for our beloved Sudan has suffered these afflictions since its independence in January 1956, with the continuous failure of the national state.
For years, all these failures and crisis were connected, in our minds, with North-South divisions, but we discovered after the secession of South Sudan in 2011, that these divisions were deeper still, that they did not stop at the borders of the South, and instead cut fiercely and tragically across the sundered land.
The civil wars continue… in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, and the cruelties of political and social injustice stalking the rest of the land.
We sometimes look back to our history, to the magnificence of the ancient Nubian Kingdoms and States, Kerma, Meroe and Kush founded by our great ancestors, and ask ourselves: why did they succeeded long time ago, and we live in total failure today, How is that we have failed where once greatness flourished
I don’t have a concrete answer to this crucial question. But the only thing coming to my mind is that we fail to know ourselves, and to appreciate and invest in our diversity and multi-cultural identities.
Our late great writer and world renowned Novelist Altayeb Salih once wrote a very memorable article titled (‘Where do they come from?’), trying to argue that those people who are governing Sudan today by the politics of division and exclusion, don’t relate to us, they don’t have the same genetics like us. It was an inspiring article which led us to volunteer an answer that they actually came from us, from our faults and mistakes, lack of understanding and lack of will of social and political coexistence and for our inability to accept our diversity.
Our crisis is rooted deep in our history, and though it is true that it was widened and expanded by the current regime. But they cannot bear the blame alone. We failed to preserve and protect a democracy born out of a long struggle and so we lost it again in June 1989, as we did in 1958 and 1969, and have since that time lived under totalitarian regime that has escalated civil war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile and exacerbated poverty and inequality and injustice throughout the rest of the country.
The Sudanese people are struggling to achieve real change, and they know that they are the only one who can achieve this change, to open doors for social, political reconciliation that could lead to peace, social justice, and democracy. All that our people need from the world is to put an eye on Sudan, and to monitor the situation there.
The media in Sudan faces many problems and challenges; it operates in a difficult and harsh atmosphere. We are among very few countries in the world which still practice pre-printing censorship, and with few exceptions, the Radio and TV stations are under full government ownership and control.
All newspapers are privately owned, but government hands are playing everywhere. Newspapers and Journalists face much suppression, all types of harassment, censorship, detention and are all too often banned from writing. Newspapers are regularly confiscated, after printing, closed and licenses withdrawn. All these practices are legalized under the National Security Act of 2010, which gives security organs free hand over the media.
During last September mass demonstrations, around 200 civilians died, hundreds were injured, and over 1200 activists and demonstrators were detained without trial. Due to censorship, these events were portrayed in the media, from the viewpoint of the government only, who did everything they could to underplay the scale of what had happened and the violence that it inflicted. It was thanks to the new media – internet and satellite channels that, the Sudanese people where able to discover the truth.
In spite of all of this, Sudanese journalists are not giving up. They face harassment, detention and threat of violence with great courage and honesty. They are doing all they can to serve their citizens right to know.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words of appreciation and thanks. I would like to thank the courageous pioneers of Sudanese journalists whose names ring through the halls of Sudanese history, from our great founder and first Sudanese journalist Hussien Shariff to the dean of the modern Sudanese press, Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, and their colleagues.
Together, we have learned and are still learning that the media should continue, in any circumstances, to play its sacred role, serving the right of the public to know. We stand together and fight together, and gain strength from our unity and solidarity.
My appreciation and thanks are extended to my colleagues in the Sudanese media, the Sudanese Journalists Network, Journalists for Human Rights and the Confederation of the Sudanese Civil Societies Organizations.
I came from a very different culture, where we think that we shouldn’t thank people, who deserve thanks and appreciation, in their presence, but in their absence, where words become more strong and trustworthy. But here today I will mix the tradition of the two cultures; so, thank you here, and I will continue to thank you in your absence, when I go back home.
Thank you again to the PETER MACKLER AWARD, The Global media Forum, and the American Branch of the Reporters without Boarders (Reporters Sans Frontiers), for selecting me for this year’s award and special thanks to the Peter Mackler family; Catherine, Camille, and Lauren for their tireless efforts to bring me here and to Ambassador Princeton Lyman for honouring this ceremony by his presence and speech.
Finally, my thanks to my family and friends who gathered here today, my wife Somaya for her loyal backing and continuous support, my relatives and friends for coming from different states to be here.
And, of course, to all of you for reserving some of your valuable time to attend this ceremony. (End)

Faisal Salih To Receive Peter Mackler Award Today

Faisal Salih speaking at Columbia University, New York


Faisal Mohammed Salih, 53, a well-known Sudanese journalist will receive the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism this evening at the National Press Club in Washington DC. He will be the fifth recipient of the award given in memory of Peter Mackler who died in 2008 after a long and distinguished career with the French news agency AFP. The award is given by the Mackler family.

 Salih and other journalists in Sudan have had to work under dangerous conditions as they try to expose the corruption and violence of a regime whose head, President Omar Al-Bashir has been convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudan is ranked 170th of 179 countries by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without Borders. [Please see these links for this blog’s coverage of Sudan and Salih: one, two, three, four]
Speaking about working as a journalist in Sudan, Salih said, “Of course, it’s not safe to speak in Sudan. We are trying to speak out and we are paying the price for it.”
 On Wednesday, Salih spoke at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.
Independent journalism has been a victim of the Al-Bashir’s secret police, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). But journalists have not been the only target of the NISS. Other human rights activists too have had the unwelcome attention of the NISS on them.
One of them was them is Safia Ishag, who as a 25-year-old student at Khartoum University in 2009 was with a group of protestors fighting for democracy in Sudan. In early 2011 she was kidnapped by the NISS, tortured and gang raped. Ishag is perhaps the only rape survivor in Sudan to speak out about what she had suffered. After Ishag went public about her ordeal, a few journalists denounced the NISS for its actions. One of them was Salih.
Accused by NISS of defaming it, Salih had to face relentless harassment at its hands. “All I wrote is that I called for an independent investigation of that case,” Salih said.
Salih is also a firm believer in mentoring student journalists and is the director of Teeba Press that teaches the subject.
On learning that he would receive the Peter Mackler Award, Salih wrote that “it is an honor for me to receive this award which carries the name of a courageous man and renowned journalist.”
Announcing the award on August 22, Camille Mackler, project director for the Peter Mackler Award said, “Our goal for the last five years, as we have built this award program, has always been to shine a light on the courage and commitment to human rights and dignity that Mr. Salih exhibits every day through his work.”

Authorities Stop Journalists Protesting Censorship in Sudan

Protests in Sudan Against Withdrawal of Subsidy(newsyaps.com)


In less than two weeks, the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism will honour this year’s winner, Sudanese newspaper columnist and media trainer, Faisal Mohamed Salih, at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC. But over the past month, the little space for media freedom in his country has been curtailed further by newspapers arbitrarily shut, the internet temporarily blocked and journalists objecting to the outrage banned from holding protest rallies.
The New York Times on September 30 quoted Salih as saying “The government wanted a total blackout on events in Sudan by local and international media.” 

The latest surge in stifling media freedom is associated with Khartoum’s move to withdraw a government subsidy on petroleum products. Although there has been much publicity given to the government crackdown on the media following clashes between the protesting public and government authorities that left 33 people dead and 700 detained, the restrictions began earlier, in anticipation of public dissent.
On September 19, three days before the demonstrations, the day’s edition of three newspapers – Al-Ayam, Al-Jareedaand Al-Intibaha – were seized by the feared secret police of President Omar Al-Bashir, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
“On 18 September, the day before the raids, the NISS told some media by phone not to publish any reports about the government’s withdrawal of subsidies for certain basic commodities. The seizure of the three newspaper issues may have been prompted by a failure to comply with this order,” said the Paris-based media freedom monitor Reporters without Borders (RSF).
After the clashes on the 22nd, restrictions intensified. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that the Sudanese government had tried to portray the demonstrations as acts of vandalism and newspaper editors were asked by authorities to refrain from publishing news that would “disturb the public.” CPJ went on to say that “On Monday (September 30), Sudanese officials confirmed the order on state television, saying that editors had agreed to self-censor in an attempt to not cover news that ‘disturbed the public’ or ‘caused sedition.'”
“‘We did not follow their directions literally,’ said Al-Sudani’s editor, Diaa Bilal. ‘The paper criticised the lifting of subsidies,'” reported the New York Times.
Dia Bilaal was confiscated for one day and suspended for two. But number of newspapers closed indefinitely including the Al-Intibaha, whose September 19 editions were confiscated by the NISS (please see above). CPJ said it was Sudan’s most popular newspaper run by al Bashir’s uncle.
CPJ and RSF also reported that foreign news networks, including the Dubai-based Al-Arabya and the British Sky News were closed indefinitely. CPJ said, “A Sudanese official blamed the networks’ news coverage for the shutdown, saying the outlets were ‘trying to manufacture an Arab Spring in Sudan.'”
Meanwhile, the move that received most amount of publicity – the temporary shut down of the internet occurred on September 25. Although the service was restored, it was after 24 hours.
There were also a number of acts of intimidation. RSFsaid on September 25, “[t]he NISS summoned the editors of the main newspapers to its headquarters and forbade them to publish any information about the protests that did not come from government sources.” CPJ also said Amal Habani, a reporter for the online website Al-Taghyeer(Change) was arrested and detained. CPJ said, “Authorities should release Amal Habani immediately or disclose the charges against her.”
CPJ and RSF said that journalists had resigned in protest at the imposition of censorship and on September 28, the Sudanese Journalists Network had asked around 400 members in its network to suspend work. The strike came to an end the next day.
On October 7, the Sudan Tribunereported that authorities had tried to prevent journalists and trade unionists of the National Umma Party from holding a protest in Omdurman. Although the police and security services had barred journalists from entering the NUP premises, some journalists had managed to slip in and held up banners demanding lifting of media restrictions.
“They also demanded the government to halt what they called the unfair campaign on newspapers and journalists, calling on journalists and advocacy groups and international human rights organisations to campaign against the restrictions and intimidations (sic) on journalists in Sudan,” the Tribune reported.
“President Bashir’s use of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to suppress media coverage is allowing the police to deploy deadly force against the protesters with complete impunity. It also shows his vulnerability in the face of the biggest demonstrations since he came to power 24 years ago. We urge the Sudanese government to put an end to these censorship measures, to protect journalists and to guarantee access to independent sources of information in order to encourage dialogue,” said RSF