Egyptian newspaper El-Watan has organized a march of journalists and activists to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo today to demand help in pressuring the Sudanese government to release one of its reporters, 25 year-old Shaimaa Adel (pictured), who was detained at a cyber café in Khartoum over a week ago along with Sudanese freelance journalist Marwa al-Tigany and political activist Yusra Abdallah.
Adel and al-Tigany are two of a growing list of journalists to be arrested by Sudanese authorities in recent weeks, against the backdrop of an amplifying anti-government protest movement.
Demonstrations began at the University of Khartoum on June 16 as a reaction to slashes in subsidies that have caused food, fuel and public transportation costs to skyrocket. The protests have since spread to other parts of the country, and some demonstrators are calling for an end to the 23-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir.
"We started off calling for the cancellation of the austerity measures," one protester told the Guardian in late June, "but now it's about bringing down the regime." Last Wednesday, Sudan’s opposition parties united to officially declare "the start of a peaceful campaign to topple the government," Al Jazeera has reported.
Al-Bashir once suggested in a speech that efforts to overturn his regime were as hopeless as attempting to lick one's elbow, prompting some demonstrators to name one organized protest “elbow-licking Friday” according to the Foreign Policy Democracy Lab blog.
He has explained that the succession of South Sudan one year ago yesterday is in part responsible for the unpopular “belt-tightening” measures that sparked the protests, blaming them on lost oil profits and the expense of the ongoing conflict between the divided countries, according to Al Jazeera.
The International Criminal Court has two arrest warrants out on al-Bashir, whom it has charged with five counts of crimes against humanity in conection with the conflict in Darfur, including murder, war crimes, and three counts of genocide .
The Sudanese regime has increasingly resorted to teargas, rubber bullets, mass beatings and arrests, and the harassment, detainment and deportation of journalists in its attemps to silence the uprising, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported yesterday.
On Friday, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detained two journalists from Al Jazeera, correspondent Imad Abdel Hadi, and cameraman Yasser Suleiman, for a short period of time. Both were beaten in custody, the broadcaster reported. Al-Arabiya told Agence-France Presse (AFP) that its crew had also been briefly detained in Khartoum on Friday and its cameraman "roughed up," according to AFP.
Salma El-Wardany- who, like Adel, is 25, female, and Egyptian- was detained on June 21 while covering the protests for Bloomberg. She has subsequently been deported back to Egypt.
Egyptian state-run news website ahram online reported last Wednesday that Sudanese authorities had released Adel, allegedly relying on a statement by the Sudanese embassy in Egypt. The news site published another article on Saturday discreetly acknowledging that the previous report of her release had proven false.
"Sudan believes it can silence reporting of political unrest by disappearing journalists into an informational black hole," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The families of Shaimaa Adel and Marwa al-Tigany do not even know if their loved ones are safe. This is truly cruel. We hold the Sudanese authorities responsible for the welfare and safety of these two journalists and call for their immediate release," Mahoney continued.
This video from Egypt Independent (subtitled in English) shows demonstrators, including Shaimaa Adel’s parents, demanding her release outside the Sudanese embassy in Cairo on July 7.
In this video, Al Jazeera speaks to the mother of Mohamed Hassan Alim, known as "Boushi," a 30 year-old Sudanese journalist and veteran activist who was arrested for the tenth time in late June when authorities stormed their Khartoum home. “It seems the government is feeling threatened by the protest movement since it could become a mass uprising against the regime,” says Telal Ismael, the editor of Mijhar Newspaper. “The authorities are preventing us from publishing photos or anything relating to the protests.”
Image Credit: a still from the Egypt Independent video