Sudan suspends leading paper, accuses owner of 'false news'

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2015 1:58 PM

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The Sudanese authorities suspended one of the country's leading papers and charged its owner with spreading "false news" and undermining the state, the owner said Wednesday. The development was the latest in the ongoing crackdown on press freedom in the African country.

Following the charges, Osman Mirghani, the owner and editor-in-chief of daily al-Tayar, said he was due in court next week, along with journalist Ahmed Youssef al-Tay, the editor-in-chief of another paper, Assayha. Al-Tay is facing the same charges as Mirghani.

"We were shown copies of columns and articles published by our newspapers as examples of the articles that they say undermine state security," Mirghani told The Associated Press over the phone on Wednesday. "We don't think (the articles are) tantamount to this."

Under Sudanese law, such charges can carry the death penalty, life imprisonment, a fine or confiscation of a defendant's entire property. Most often, however, journalists convicted of the charges are fined or jailed.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the upcoming trial and called on the government to drop all charges against the two.

"Charging journalists with a crime punishable by death marks an alarming escalation in the Sudanese government's battle against independent media," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

Al-Tayar, which recently ran articles criticizing the government's subsidy policy, has already been temporarily shut down 15 times in 2015. And like al-Tay's Assayha, the paper's headquarters have been raided in the past, according to Mirghani and CPJ.

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This story has been corrected to show the charged journalist's name is Osman Mirghani, not Othman al-Marghani.