Sudanese security forces have arrested the bureau chief of Qatari-based Al Jazeera TV, according to the network. This comes two days after the latest crackdown on anti-coup protesters left at least eight dead according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which has brought the total number of those killed since last month’s military takeover to 23; among those who lost their lives last Saturday are three teenagers.
“Security forces raided the house of Al-Musalami al-Kabbashi, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Sudan, and detained him,” the network said on Twitter.
Al Jazeera has given prominent coverage to demonstrations against the October 25 power grab, but last week it also aired a detailed interview with top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Other media outlets besides Al Jazeera have been targeted since the coup, when Burhan declared a state of emergency, detained the civilian leadership and removed the government installed after the April 2019 military ouster of authoritarian president Omar al-Bashir.
Burhan, who has been the de facto head of state since Bashir fell, has sacked the heads of Sudan’s state television and the official news agency.
The army’s last month’s power grab has been seen to derail a transition to full civilian rule, sparked international condemnation and provoked regular protests. The European Union on Sunday called on the junta “to return to the path of a fair and open dialogue with civilians”, demanding “the release of all detainees including journalists” arrested since the coup.
“Over 50 people were arrested during the protests on Saturday,” lawyer Enaam Attik said Sunday. “Prosecutors ordered their release, but the police have taken them to an unknown location.” he added.
The recent protests in the country, including by tens of thousands of people on Saturday, have continued despite internet outages forcing demonstrators to communicate via graffiti and SMS messages.
Gunshots were reportedly heard as security forces tried to break up last Saturday’s protests, but police denied using live rounds, and said 39 of their personnel were “severely wounded” in confrontations with the protesters, whom they accused of attacking police stations.
The ongoing coup has triggered punitive measures by Western countries and the World Bank; the United Nations has called on security forces to show restraint, while Britain’s minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, said Sudan’s “military must listen to the huge numbers calling for restoration of the democratic transition”. Burhan argues that the recent military move “was not a coup” but a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.
Al Jazeera has since strongly condemned “the reprehensible actions of the military”, called for its bureau chief’s immediate release, and for its journalists to be able to work unhindered without fear or intimidation. The network, which authorities ordered shut for about three months after Bashir’s removal, defended the professionalism of its reporting.