Sudan closed a newspaper campaigning for the separation of the country’s north and south, state media reports, signalling a new crackdown before a vote on southern independence.
Al Intibaha, was “suspended indefinitely” because of the way it strengthened separatist tendencies, said The Sudanese Media Centre, a news outlet with links to state security. Other newspapers said articles about conflicts in the south had also been blocked, and national security officers had warned them they would resume daily censorship of publications. Reuters reports
Southerners are six months away from a referendum on whether they should split away as an independent nation. Analysts say most southerners favour independence but President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, leader of the main party in the north, has promised to campaign to persuade southerners to vote for unity.
The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan’s Muslim north and the south, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs. Northern and southern leaders are due to start politically sensitive discussions in Khartoum on Saturday on how they would divide oil revenues and debts after the plebiscite.
Editors of two other newspapers told Reuters security agents had telephoned late on Monday telling them to remove articles about conflicts in the south, saying they would damage relations between Khartoum and the oil-producing region.
“They said they wanted us to concentrate on the issue of unity. They said anything that might disturb the government in the south might make problems,” said the editor in chief of Al- Tayyar newspaper Osman Mirghani.
Bashir lifted newspaper censorship in the run up to April’s elections, but newspapers have complained it has made a comeback since the poll.
“We are back to square one … Starting from tonight they say they are going to visit every newspaper to check if anything should be prevented,” said Mirghani, adding he had been forced to scrap Tuesday’s print-run of Al-Tayyar because there had not been enough time to remove the offending article about tribal clashes in the south.
Editors at the daily Al-Ahdath said they also received a late call from state security and had pulled their Tuesday edition, which had contained an article about clashes between south Sudan’s army and a renegade militia leader. Al Intibaha is known for its harsh criticism of the south and southerners and has argued for Arab north Sudan to take the initiative and separate from the south. SPLM officials have made a series of complaints about its coverage in the past.
Sudanese security closed opposition newspaper Rai Al-Shaab and arrested staff in May after it printed articles accusing Bashir of rigging elections and reporting Iran was developing weapons in a Sudanese factory.