A Sudanese court on Monday sentenced a prominent newspaper editor to six months in jail for publishing an article accusing President Omar al-Bashir’s family of corruption. The court also gave a three-year suspended jail term to the writer of the piece which was published in 2012. “The court has ordered me to pay 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,428) or go to jail for six months,” Osman Mirgani, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Tayar, said.
“I have decided not to pay the money, and am waiting for the authorities to take me to jail.” Mirgani said that in the article, writer “Mohamed Zine El Abidine accused Bashir’s family of being corrupt”. After it was published, Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) filed cases against both Mirgani and El Abidine. After the court pronounced its sentence on Monday, the government denied it had intervened in the judicial proceedings.
“This was a case in the court and we never interfere in court cases,” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal told reporters after Mirgani was sentenced. “However, journalists have no immunity when they are convicted of insulting someone.”
Mirgani, a US-educated engineer turned journalist, has been regularly targeted for his aggressive style of speaking out against the authorities and over corruption scandals his paper has exposed.
NISS agents often confiscate the entire print runs of editions of Al-Tayar over articles that they deem inappropriate. Mirgani was once beaten up by armed men who stormed his office in central Khartoum in July 2014.
In its 2016 report, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Sudan near the bottom of a world press freedom index, saying that the NISS “hounds journalists and censors the print media”.