President lifts ban on English daily newspaper

KHARTOUM (AP) — Sudan’s president has overturned a publishing ban on the Khartoum Monitor, one of the capital’s two English daily newspapers, the official Sudan Media Centre reported Wednesday.
The move follows the lifting of Sudan’s emergency laws earlier this month and the government promise of no more censorship, part of an improving political climate since the adoption of a new constitution and swearing in of a national unity government.

“In response to the request submitted by the newspaper, the president of the republic … issued a decision dropping the sentence on withdrawal of the license of Khartoum Monitor daily newspaper,” SMC reported, saying President Omar Al Bashir made the decision after consultations with his legal adviser and the justice minister.

The Monitor, which focuses largely on southern issues, has been repeatedly shut down, most recently on June 12, when its licence was suspended so the court could review a 2003 case finding it guilty of crimes against the state for publishing a story about slavery in southern Sudan. The newspaper had successfully appealed the decision and it was unclear why the case was being reviewed again.

“This is very good news,” said Alfred Taban, editor of the daily and chairman of its board of directors. “This is the right move at the right time, because our people need to know what is going on and such would be helpful in the proper implementation of the (comprehensive peace agreement).” “We are publishing soon and without delay to catch up what we missed.’ Taban said.

Mohamed Fareed, the attorney for crimes against the state who has handled several cases against the newspaper, was quoted by SMC as cautioning the daily to work in line with Sudan’s laws. “We hope the paper will follow conduct that would lead to serving the public interest and we look forward to its overcoming past differences and past violations and that it will work to disseminate news and publish them in accordance with the law,” Fareed said.

The Monitor is one of only two English daily newspapers in Khartoum. The other, Sudan Vision, is owned by the government.

Sudan has a history of suspending newspapers and detaining journalists, particularly those critical of the government, under restrictive emergency laws. But the new government and new constitution, and the lifting of the emergency laws, have given journalists wary hope for improvements.

The changes in Sudan follow the January signing of a peace agreement that brought an end to a 21-year civil war between the government and southern rebels.

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