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 Crackdown on Freedom of Expression and Association Ahead of Elections

(17 September 2023) The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies today expressed concern about the increasing crackdown on freedom of expression in Sudan, targeting public discussion of, and preparation for, the elections scheduled for April 2010. Since the beginning of August, Sudanese authorities have systematically targeted any activities, symposia, public rallies or lectures related to the elections. Also, censorship of the media by the security services has, in recent weeks, increasingly targeted discussions of the elections.

Incidents which have occurred since 1 August 2023 include:

1-     On 6 August 2009, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) disrupted a public talk about the upcoming elections organised by the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP). Security forces arrived at the symposium and disbursed the crowd, ordering the organisers to cancel the event. The organisers had obtained all the necessary permissions and clearances from the police as prescribed by law.

2-     On 13 August 2009, the NISS in Port Sudan prevented a public talk about the election organised by a coalition of opposition political parties, the Alliance of National Forces. 

3-     In Al Daein, South Darfur, the NISS raided the offices of the New Forces Movement “Haq” and confiscated documents and educational materials on the elections.

4-     On 8 September 2009, the NISS ordered “Journalists for Unity,” a coalition of northern and southern journalists, to cancel a press conference at Tyeba Press. The press conference had intended to address issues related to the upcoming elections and the referendum.

5-     On 8 September 2009, the NISS also prevented Asma organisation, Maa Society and the Sudan Research and Development Organisation from holding a symposium on elections to be held at Alshariqa hall in Khartoum University. 

6-     On 9 September, NISS prevented Al Sudani newspaper from publishing. The security officers who review the newspaper's content every day in keeping with the government’s pre-print censorship policy arrived late and removed articles related to the elections. The entire edition had to be cancelled due to the volume of text removed.

7-     On 10 September, NISS officers arrived late at Al Midan weekly newspaper and ordered the removal of many articles related to the elections and critical of the National Congress Party. The entire edition had to be cancelled due to the volume of text removed.

In response to some of these incidents a coalition of opposition political parties, including the Alliance of National Forces, including the main opposition political parties (25) submitted an official complaint to the National Election Commission on 12 August 2023 about restrictions imposed on them by security forces with regard to the election.

The Sudanese people have the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to operate associations, guaranteed by Sudan's Interim Constitution and international law. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies is concerned these incidents demonstrate that the government is actively restricting these rights and, by extension, undermining the possibility for free and fair elections and the credibility of the polling exercise.



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