Journalist and producer arrested, one day after anti-government protests in Sudan

The director of Al Jazeera’s office in the West Nile state capital, Malakal, and a producer were arrested on the morning of Saturday, one day after a protest over a new law that closed most state-owned businesses, the news network said.

The bureau chief, Mohammed Al-Mansour, also remains missing, the New York Times said. Al Jazeera said Mr. Mansour had filed a complaint against government security officers for allegedly raiding his offices on Saturday and searching offices and equipment.

“Mr. Mansour called his father, a security official in the village of Massala near Malakal, to tell him he was in government custody,” the network said. “He was then able to inform his own father and some co-workers of his arrest and detention at a police station.”

After being told of the arrests, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Sudan, Mads Gilbert, called for an investigation of the detained journalist.

“In light of the recent trend of arbitrary detentions of activists and journalists in Malakal, this appointment, while legal, is wholly unacceptable,” Mr. Gilbert said. “The authorities have an obligation to protect journalists’ ability to cover the uprisings taking place across Sudan. We call for immediate release of those who have been detained and for such practices to stop immediately.”

Authorities on Friday conducted raids on offices of other media outlets in Malakal, the last day that they were open in government’s attempt to block protests, Reuters reported.

The Sudanese Journalists Association condemned the arrests, saying they are further evidence of government intolerance to any protest to the new law.

“Journalists should not be treated as enemies to be suppressed by violence and arrest,” an association statement said. “Sudan is a country of freedom of expression and one where journalists are enjoying ample media freedom, however, we are witnessing a dangerous provocation to this freedom of expression through a tactic of silencing media and arresting journalists.”

The National Umma Party also condemned the arrests.

“The arrested journalist serves as an instrumental part of organizing and leading recent protests against the new law and as such, these arrests are highly suspect,” the party said.

Four protesters were killed and 11 others wounded on Friday. Hundreds also were arrested and more than 200 protesters were wounded after security forces blocked roads and fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

Security forces in North Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where the protests began, and Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, stepped up their security presence on Saturday and blocked all access to journalists, several news outlets reported. They also closed several checkpoints to facilitate movement on Saturday.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Saturday that extrajudicial killings in the Sudanese state of Darfur escalated in December and January.

“Security forces are using live ammunition indiscriminately, often indiscriminately,” Louai Alhajeh, the group’s Sudan researcher, said. “This is resulting in at least seven protesters being killed every day during clashes with the security forces.”

Ali Abiyew, the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, condemned the killings of protesters and the detention of journalists. The mission issued a statement describing the arrests as “irresponsible and a violation of international law.”

“These wrongful activities are unacceptable in a country known for its democratic institutions,” Mr. Abiyew said.

In a message to President Omar al-Bashir, Mr. Abiyew said: “We strongly and strongly urge your government to investigate these grave incidents.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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