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Faisal Salih Acquitted By Sudan Court Of Writing “Lies”

Faisal Salih (2nd left) Catherine Antoine (left) at Peter Mackler Award


In a bold move, a Sudan court acquitted editor and columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih, winner of the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, of writing “lies” and “insulting the state” that could have earned him a six-month jail sentence.  

The Global Post and Darfur-based Radio Dabangareported that Salih was exonerated by Judge Esmat Suleiman who said in his verdict that Salih “did not publish lies and did not insult the state” and that “a lot of media published about this case.”
Reacting to Salih’s acquittal, Catherine Antoine, co-founder of the Peter Mackler Award said, “We are relieved to learn that Faisal Salih was cleared of wrong doing while exercising his profession. We hope the Sudanese courts will also clear the other journalist accused in a similar fashion.”
Click here for this blog’s coverage of Salih and media freedom in Sudan: 1), 2), 3), 4), 5), 6) and 7)
Salih was indicted under the Criminal Code after he was one the first journalists to expose the alleged gang rape of Sudan’s democracy activist Safia Ishag by agents of the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) by calling for “‘serious investigation’ into the activist’s allegation that she was raped in detention,” said the Global Post.
“‘It’s very positive for the freedom of the press and the role of the press in society,’ he [Salih] said, noting that the judge described his article as ‘very objective,'” reported Radio Dabanga following the acquittal.
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 Salih 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 Salih was defamingit by associating its officers with the rape of Ishag.
“An allegation of rape in custody is a grave matter and we are encouraged by the decision of the Sudanese court,” said Antoine in her message after the announcement of Saih’s acquittal.
Accepting the Peter Mackler Award at the National Press Club in Washington DC in October Salih said, “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.”

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 Alrakoba.net