Sudanese editor put on trial for "false news"
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese newspaper editor went on trial on Sunday charged with publishing false news undermining the dignity of the state, an offence punishable by up to six months in jail.
Faiz al-Silaik, acting editor-in-chief of Ajras al-Huriya, which has strong links to south Sudan's main party the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), said his publication was being targeted in an attack on press freedom.
"This is the fifth case raised against the paper in the past three months," he told journalists on Sunday, after proceedings were adjourned until June 15 because one of the two journalists accused, Al-Hajj Waraq, was out of the country.
"Three of them are by the state security, one by police and one by the army," he said, blaming President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) for the alleged harassment.
Waraq wrote an article in Ajras al-Huriya critical of Bashir and his party and urging people to support the SPLM's boycott of the vote in the north citing what it said was widespread fraud.
But the focus of the charges was on a reference in the story to an anti-NCP youth activist who said he was arrested and tortured by state security agents during the election campaign.
"This story was published as a news item by many papers, web sites and international broadcasters weeks before this article and yet they are targeting only us for this," said Silaik.
The security service, which has denied arresting the activist, was not immediately available to comment.
Bashir lifted direct censorship of dozens of Sudanese papers before the April election. But some papers complain they face financial pressure due to cutbacks of government company advertising, forcing self-censorship.
"Censorship went out the door and snuck in through the window," said Silaik of the charges. "They use the repressive press, criminal and national security laws against us."
Sudan's constitution enshrines press freedom but many laws still restrict the media. The country has a lively written press but television and radio remain under tight control. International media are not censored.