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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.”

Faisal Salih: Paying The Price for Speaking Out In Sudan

Faisal Mohamed Salih

Faisal Mohamed Salih, 53, winner of the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, is a celebrated Sudanese journalist. But he is much more than that. In a country where democratic freedoms and human rights are violated with impunity, he understands that only by fighting on multiple fronts, including for other human rights defenders, can the battle against political barbarism be won.
One such human rights defender is 25-year-old Safia Ishag. A student at Khartoum University in 2009 where she read fine arts, she joined Girifna (We are Fed Up) a pro-democracy movement that opposed the ruling NCP of President Omar al-Bashir. It was a time when the country was gearing up for elections. And as an activist Ishag helped people register to vote.
In January 2011, encouraged by the Arab Spring Ishag was among those who called for democracy in Sudan, attended political rallies and distributed flyers. The protests were met with arrests of many activists.  (Incidentally, journalists too were arrested in these crackdowns by the al-Bashir government. Read Reporters without Borders (RSF) reports here)
“A couple weeks later, Ishaq was kidnapped by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents and taken to a house, she said. She described being tortured and gang raped multiple times. In between rapes and beatings, they told her they knew she had attended the rallies of January 30 and handed out flyers,” writes Louise Hogan, in the blog Women under Siege.
The saga does not end here. Ishag was one of the few women, perhaps the only one in Sudan who has publicly spokenthe torture she underwent in the hands of the NISS.
In March 2011 after Ishag went public about her ordeal, Salih and other journalists denounced the NISS in their writings. The attorney general’s office summoned him and two others to be interrogatedafter the security forces accused them of spreading “false information.” Harassment in the hands of state authorities continued well into August with other journalists too being investigated or tried before courts for reporting the torture of Ishag. The NISS said Saleh was defamingit by associating its officers with the rape.
Salih’s commitment to empowering defenders of democracy and human rights did not stop with writing about activist Ishag. As director of the NGO Teeba Press he also trains journalists. In countries where journalists realise how fragile the defences of democracy are they take it as a duty to train others who can carry on the good work in the event they themselves are unable to do so for some reason.
“Of course, it’s not safe to speak in Sudan. We are trying to speak out and we are paying the price for it,” Salih has said. Work is trying under repressive governments where censorship is the norm and self-censorship sadly closes the few windows of opportunity that open to test the limits of media freedom. So he spoke to the international network Al Jazeera on April 25 last year. His comments were a response to al-Bashir’s remarks about the conflict in South Kardofan.
The NISS retaliated by asking him to report daily to its offices for 13 days. He was not interrogated about anything but made to sit in office throughout the day. On May 8 when he failedto report to the NISS he was arrested and kept incommunicado and without food or drink for 12 hours. Rearrested on May 9 he was detained for six days. On May 15 the State filed criminal charges for not cooperating with authorities. On May 30, he was acquittedby court.
Faisal Mohammed Salih demonstrates the resilience and courage of journalists all over the world who have to contrive different means to beat state repression. They do it not only by writing about injustice and abuse, but crusading on behalf of the voiceless. Not just exposing criminals, but training others to do so. Risky work indeed, but there is no alternative.
For more on Salih read here

For more on recent development in Sudan’s media read here

Sudan’s Faisal Mohamed Salih Wins 2013 Peter Mackler Award

Faisal Mohamed Salih, reporter, editor, columnist and journalism teacher in Sudan, is the winner of the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.

Washington DC, August 22, 2013 – “I am not giving up,” and again “We are not giving up.”

The National Intelligence and Security Service of Sudan has given journalist Faisal Mohamed Salih frequent cause to express his determination to see a free press unafraid to document government repression take root in his homeland.

As the Sudan Tribune noted, “He is no stranger to confrontations with the security apparatus.” Reporters Without Borders said that “In the face of harsh oppression, Salih remains a steadfast figure of free speech.”

The U.S. State Department singled out Sudan’s efforts to silence Salih in its 2012 report on human rights abuses worldwide.

“The government, including NISS, continued to arrest and torture journalists and harass vocal critics of the government,” the report said. “Authorities continued to target aggressively journalists and publications through contrived legal proceedings, politicized criminal charges, and confiscations.”

“For example, in April (2012) the NISS compelled Al Adwa newspaper Editor in Chief Faisal Mohamed Salih to appear for daily questioning after he criticized the president during an interview on Al-Jazeera. Saleh was arrested and interrogated for nine hours after he failed to appear for a 12th day of questioning,” the State Department report said.

The 53-year-old Salih, a reporter, editor, columnist and teacher now with the Al Khartoum Daily, most notably came to the defense of Safia Ishaq, an artist and activist with the pro-democracy Girifna (We Are Fed Up) group. She charged that in 2011 she was beaten and gang-raped after being dragged off the streets of Khartoum by government agents.

“All I wrote is that I called for an independent investigation of that case,” Salih said, but he was subjected to another round of NISS interrogations and court appearances.

Safia Ishaq had angered the authorities with an exhibit on the plight of women in Sudan. She said later that her captors accused her of being a “communist” and said of her short hair that “this is the style of communist girls.” She vowed to continue to “speak out against these people with my art and send a message – I will be strong.”

Salih, with a degree in journalism from al-Azhar University in Cairo and a master’s from the University of Wales in Cardiff, has worked for 25 years for various Sudanese newspapers and also is director of Programs for Teeba Press at the Media Training, Advocacy, and Consultancy Center.

The struggle to present the news accurately and fairly has been a constant. Sudan is currently ranked 170th out of 179 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

“The African nation is known for its widespread use of intimidation and violence to censor journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The result is a media landscape crippled by state censorship, and self-censorship is practiced by many of the country’s professional journalists.”

Salih has pledged to continue to work across that difficult landscape. “Of course, it’s not safe to speak in Sudan. We are trying to speak out and we are paying the price for it,” he said. The NISS continues daily visits to newsrooms “to decide what is published and what is not allowed.,” he said.

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.”

“I look to it as an award to all Sudanese journalists, who are working in difficult circumstances, and all journalists around the world who are facing same situation.”

Richard Sisk Read more about Sudan and the media Read Faisal Mohamed Salih’s columns published on

Sudan’s Intelligence Agency Plays Havoc Under the Radar

In the posting on August 13, this blog referred to squabbles between powerful agencies within Iran’s ruling establishment and how they appear to have influenced the country’s newly-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, to abandon an important role for reformists in his cabinet.

While there are moderates in the cabinet, its composition is seen more as a delicate balance of forces for what Rouhani believes is the task ahead – retrieving Iran from the biggest two, interrelated, challenges it is facing – developing nuclear weapons and the devastating effects of international sanctions. An important step towards this goal was to counterbalance the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guardian Corps (IRGC) by pruning its numbers in the cabinet and increasing the number of representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS).
According to Ali Alfoneh of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies the “relatively strong MOIS presence […] is unprecedented.” One of the three members of MOIS in Rouhani’s cabinet of course is the dreaded Mostafa Pour-Mohammadinominated for the post of the minister of justice.
While the appointment of Pour-Mohammadi is not the first instance of intelligence agencies playing a decisive role in shaping the role of Iran’s media, it might be interesting to look at another country which has as notorious a record of stifling media freedom through its intelligence agency – Sudan. Interestingly, Iran (174th) and Sudan (170th) are among the worst 10 in RSF’s 179-country Press Freedom Index.  
In a statement on April 5, RSFsaid that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had “ordered Al Nour Mohamed Al Nour’s suspension as editor-in-chief of the independent Arabic-language daily Al Sahafa.” RSF said that Al Sahafa had promptly acceded to the order and removed Al Nour’s name from the publication’s masthead. The RSF statement said that AFP had quoted Al Nour saying, “[h]is removal may have been linked to disagreements about the censorship imposed by the security services.”
RSF also drew attention to NISS summoning for questioning Almosalami Alkabbakhi, Al Jazeera’s Khartoum correspondent. The agency accused him of reporting false information and unbalanced reporting. Alkabbakhi was questioned for nine hours on April 3 and 4 and ordered to report for further questioning, RSF said.
One of the most horrifying cases of NISS’s role in suppressing freedom of the media is the kidnapping and torture of Somaia Ibrahim Ismail, also known as ‘Hundosa,’ on October 29 last year. RSFsaid she was tortured for three days for opposing Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir.Her jailers shaved her hair. She was told it was because “it looked like the hair of Arabs and she belonged to the slaves in Darfur,” said RSF. She was then reported to have taken refuge in her family home on November 6 and later fled the country
NISS’s unwelcome intrusion into media freedom does not stop here. In the same report RSF said that on March 24, NISS had confiscated all copies of the Arabic daily Al-Khartoum and in January, 14,000 copies of another Arabic-language publication Al-Sudani. In another statement, dated January 24, RSFsaid that the moves appeared to be the result of Al-Sudani reporting the Sudanese opposition meeting in Uganda’s Kampala to take forward the struggle against the Khartoum government.
Meanwhile, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has recorded NISS’s role in closing and banning publications in Sudan. In a statement on June 6, CPJ said that three publications had been banned despite NISS and the Sudan’s information minister expressly agreeing earlier to suspend pre-publication censorship.
CPJ said Madiha Abdella, editor of the opposition Al-Midan, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, had told his staff that NISS had ordered the printing and distribution companies of the newspaper to suspend operations, although Al-Midan’s online version was permitted . CPJ also said that two other newspapers Al-Meghar al-Syasy and Al-Intibaha were banned from publishing on May 24. Al-Meghar al-Syasy was banned for criticising Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir seeking re-election in 2015 and Al-Intibaha for reporting clashes between the military and rebels in the restive South Kardofan region.
“The Sudanese government cannot have it both ways, offering to lift pre-publication censorship while at the same time reverting to its long-standing tactic of banning publications outright,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.
The NISS has not been alone in intimidating journalists. CPJsaid in a statement on July 17 that Bloomberg correspondent Michael Gunn was seized, detained assaulted and threatened by the police. Gunn who fled the country on July 2 was covering a meeting of an opposition party in Omdurman when he was taken in. “The journalist said that he was then blindfolded and interrogated for three hours about what he was doing in Sudan. He said he was slapped several times during the interrogation and that he was ordered to unlock his smartphone,” CPJ said.
With Sudan’s independent media stifled and civil society crippled, NISS has very few obstacles in propping up the Al-Bashir regime. And, unlike Iran, the actions of the predators of Sudan’s media takes place with few countries bothering about them.