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UN urges Sudanese authorities to stop targeting journalists, protesters

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 The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday urged Sudanese authorities to stop targeting journalists and desist from using  force against protesters.

The UN rights office said the clampdown on freedom of opinion and expression appeared to be increasing through arrests of journalists, home and office raids and searches, ill treatment of journalists and suspension of licences.

“We call on the Sudanese authorities to stop targeting journalists, to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully respected,’’ Spokesperson for OHCHR, Ravina Shamdasani, said at a news conference in Geneva.

The spokesperson said that Sudanese authorities should ensure that peaceful protests were facilitated rather than met with unnecessary and disproportionate force.

She listed several recent incidents targeting the press, noting that this past Saturday, the authorities revoked the broadcasting licence of Aljazeera Live, the Arabic-language news and events channel that is part of the Aljazeera Media Network.

Sudanese armed forces also reportedly entered the office of Al Araby Television in Khartoum on Jan. 13 and arbitrarily arrested four staff while they were covering a protest from the rooftop of the building.

Police and security forces also stormed the offices of two television channels in the capital on Dec. 30, 2021, while they were covering protest march in the city.  Staff were beaten and harassed, and some office property was also damaged.

In addition, the official called on the authorities to bring those responsible for abuses against journalists and protesters to justice.

“The human rights situation in Sudan continues to be of serious concern.

“It is of concern with peaceful protesters killed or injured on a near-daily basis by security forces, as well as a clampdown on critics of the authorities and on independent journalists.’’

She cited statistics which show 71 people have been killed, and more than 2,200 injured by security forces during protests in the wake of the Oct. 25 military coup, which saw the end of transitional power-sharing with civilian representatives.

Seventeen of the deaths occurred just since the beginning of this year, while seven people were killed on Monday alone, and dozens injured, when security forces brutally dispersed demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum.

The OHCHR Office in Sudan has also noted a pattern demonstrating that more than a quarter of those injured were hit directly by teargas canisters.

According to her, this raises concern that security forces are firing canisters horizontally, and at individuals, in violation of international standards.

“We repeat our call on the Sudanese authorities to immediately cease the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force – including the use of live ammunition – against peaceful protesters.’’

The spokesperson said the use of live ammunition was only permissible as a measure strictly of last resort in case of an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.

“There need to be thorough, prompt, independent investigations and the authorities have a duty to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, a campaign of arbitrary arrest and detention against protesters and journalists continues amid the state of emergency.

OHCHR said security forces have been breaking into activists’ homes, and even entering hospitals to arrest wounded protesters. Assaults against healthcare workers and facilities have also been reported. 

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