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Sudanese Journalist Jailed for Reporting Activist’s Rape

Sudanese Journalist Jailed for Reporting Activist’s Rape

According to Sudan’s constitution, freedom of the press is guaranteed.  However, in practice, the right to report news without fear of government action seems fragile at best, and nonexistent at worst.  Case in point: Fatima Ghazali, a journalist who was recently jailed for a month for writing articles about the alleged rape of Safiya Ishaq, a female activist who was arrested following an anti-government protest in February.  The judge in Khartoum convicted Ghazali of publishing lies, and ordered her to pay a $600 fine or spend a month in prison.  She chose to go to prison.

Five more people are set to be tried for writing about Ishaq, who claimed online in several videos that she was repeatedly raped by three security officers after she was arrested.  Ishaq has since fled the country, but the journalists remain to face the consequences.  Ghazali’s editor at the Sudanese daily Al-Jarida was also fined, and has yet to decide whether he wants to pay the fine or spend the requisite amount of time in jail.

The punishment meted out to Ghazali and her editor is not severe, but it’s troubling on a number of levels.  First of all, although Ishaq’s rape had not been proven, the journalists had the right to write about her allegations.  Certainly, until the case was proven, they were not “publishing lies.”  Secondly, the nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders claims that this is part of a pattern of harassing journalists for covering human rights violations.

In a piece last month, RWB condemned the “disgraceful way the authorities are harassing and prosecuting journalists in Khartoum and the north of the country in an attempt to silence them and stop embarrassing revelations about human rights violation by the security forces.”

It’s only a matter of days before South Sudan gains international recognition, as the elections last winter stipulated, and the interim constitution expires.  While journalistic freedom may get better in South Sudan, many fear that North Sudan will crack down on freedom of the press in its attempts to enforce Sharia law.  In other words, it’s hard to know what will happen to journalists after Saturday.  Although Ghazali’s imprisonment is unjust, she may have escaped with a lenient punishment compared to could happen to journalists who are perceived to threaten the Sudanese government in the future.

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31 comments

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5:07PM PST on Dec 5, 2011

Terrible news. Fighting against corruption, and fighting for the freedom of speech. Regardless if it was truth or lies, it's a dangerous and foul game. Unfortunately, rape and such evils, are government's tactics to keep themselves in power. Living by integrity and moral conscience are the potentials to keep the government in power. In the situation here, the government may be on the verge of a collapse. This is an extremely big sacrifice and bravery on part of the convicted people, as I am sure that they must have considered in advance what the government's possible reactions may be.

12:02PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

Sad... Petition signed.

12:30PM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

It is so terrible, that people can be so cruel. People who do this terrible crime to others can't be called humans anymore. They are no animals, because animals don't do this to each other or to other species, they only kill because they eat other animals. These people are monsters, especially when the victims are children (i was a child, too)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King) [edit]

11:21AM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

Hard to believe such evil exists.. and yet there it is..

10:40AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Not suprised.

7:24PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Those Journalist who are willing to speak truth to power are heroes. What passes for journalism in the MSM these days is too often namby-pamby, sensationalized, conflict-inciting, or infotainment, then of course you have the outright propagandists. Interviews without in-depth research to call out lies or erroneous claims...

2:33PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Most news reports are lies nowadays anyway.

9:49AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Sudan is seriously shaming the whole Arab world and Islam with its intolerance towards others, and by others I dont just non-Muslims and non-Arabs, but even anyone who disagrees with anything that stupid government says or thinks. The good people of Sudan must start a revolution of their own if they want to see change.

7:07AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

these women will suffer rape in prison, as a further (acceptable) punishment for their daring....

this country is nowhere near civilisation!

5:10AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

One journalist in jail, five more to be tried.
I wonder how the search for Ishaq's alleged rapists is going ?
Tis curious indeed how many governments, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, are much keener to catch and jail journalists instead of catching and punishing rapists.
For some reason .....
Until women are treated with respect in these countries, these injustices are sure to continue.
I, for one, shall not be holding my breath waiting for the change in attitude.

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