Dozens of Sudanese journalists Monday protested in downtown Khartoum demanding the release of a prominent editor detained for criticising a state of emergency imposed by President Omar al-Bashir, witnesses said.
Osman Mirghani, editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Tayar, was taken away by security agents from his office on the night of February 22 after making televised comments on Bashir’s decision to impose emergency rule nationwide.
Bashir declared the state of emergency after an initial crackdown failed to quell widespread protests against his administration that erupted in December.
The journalists gathered in downtown Khartoum to express their solidarity with Mirghani and to fight for freedom of expression in the east African country.
“We are the voice of our own people and not of the regime,” they chanted and carried banners demanding Mirghani’s release, witnesses said, before dispersing.
The protest was organised by the Sudanese Journalists Network, a group belonging to the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) that is spearheading the protest campaign against Bashir’s iron-fisted rule.
Mirghani was arrested after an interview with Sky News Arabia in which he said Bashir’s measures would “spark a new wave” of protests and send a message that the public “can exert more pressure to achieve its goal of removing this regime”.
The US-educated engineer turned journalist has often been targeted by security agents, who have detained him several times, confiscated copies of his newspaper or barred its publication without giving any reason.
Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) regularly seizes entire print runs of newspapers over articles it deems inappropriate, especially those criticising the authorities or government policies.
Sudan is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in media watchdog Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
On Monday, scores of protesters also staged a demonstration in south Khartoum’s district of Jabra, where Bashir inaugurated a hospital hours earlier.
Men and women chanted anti-government slogans as they walked through the district, witnesses said.
Protests first erupted on December 19 in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.
But they swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s three-decade rule, with protesters calling on him to step down.
Protesters accuse his adminstration of mismanaging the country’s economy that has led to soaring food prices, shortage of fuel and foreign currency.
Bashir, 75, has remained defiant in the face of protests.