Reuters and AFP Journalists Released from Sudanese Custody

Reuters reporter Khalid Abdelaziz and Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali were released Jan. 22 by Sudanese authorities after being detained for covering protests in Khartoum. According to Reuters, the two were held in Kobar prison. Surprisingly, no charges were filed, and Abdelaziz claimed he had not been “mistreated.” Many journalists in Sudan do not state the same.

Sudan is known as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, ranked 174 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom 2017 Index and “not-free” by Freedom House.

According to AFP, Idris Ali, who has worked for AFP for over a decade, declared after his release that “I am free and so are the other journalists.”

Both reporters were covering the outbreak of protests that recently arose in the wake of increased food prices. One such protest took place in Omdurman, where Idris Ali witnessed riot police breaking up a demonstration of 200 people.

Khalid Abdelaziz reported that the two main issues facing the country are rising inflation, which has approached 20 percent, and the dollar shortage.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) made several recommendations in order to address these issues, resulting in the Sudanese government adopting a second exchange rate in order to “boost foreign currency flows into the banking system.”

Protests have also become more frequent after Sudan banned several vital imports such as meat and fish, while also raising tariffs on other products, leaving shelves empty at local markets.

“Prices rise daily after the government decisions and [with] what we sell, we can no longer completely replace because our capital is losing value,” said minimarket owner Mohamed Yassin to Reuters.

Khalid Abdelaziz also reported that the current government led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has made a targeted effort to “silence media criticism over its handling of the crisis.” Since the beginning of the protests, one television channel has been shut down along with the print editions of four different newspapers.

According to Arab News, several international organizations and governments have criticized Sudan’s treatment of journalists.

“By arresting and intimidating journalists, confiscating newspapers, and attempting to censor news dissemination, the Sudanese authorities keep trying to get journalists to stick to the official narrative or pay the price,” Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert also stated that the United States “condemns the harassment, arbitrary detention, and attacks on journalists in Sudan who are doing their jobs and exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.”

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