KHARTOUM: Sudanese authorities have detained a Reuters stringer and an AFP reporter who were covering protests in the capital Khartoum, the country’s external information council, which deals with foreign media organizations, said.
Reuters last had contact with its stringer early on Wednesday before he went to report on the demonstrations which resulted in clashes between police and protesters. Sudan has seen a wave of unrest over soaring living costs.
An official in the external information council, contacted by Reuters, did not say whether charges would be brought against the two Sudanese journalists. The official had earlier said they would be released early on Thursday.
Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali, a 51-year-old who has worked for AFP in Khartoum for almost a decade, was covering the protests on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital’s twin city of Omdurman, where riot police fired tear gas on about 200 protesters, a middle eastern media said.
Idris Ali was unreachable after the protest and authorities informed AFP on Thursday that he had been arrested along with two other journalists, including one working for international news agency Reuters, and was being held at a detention centre run by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service.
Sudanese officials initially said Idris Ali would be released within hours but as of late Thursday, more than 24 hours after he was detained, he was still being held.
Authorities said the three journalists “are being investigated” but provided no further details.
“We do not know the circumstances of the detention and are actively seeking additional information about the situation,” a Reuters spokesperson said.
“AFP management strongly condemns the arrest of Mr Idris Ali and asks Sudanese authorities for his immediate release,” the agency said.
Several protesters were also reported to have been detained at the demonstration.
In addition, Sudanese authorities arrested several reporters working for local Sudanese outlets over their coverage of the protests, according to a statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said five local journalists had also been arrested and called for the immediate release of all the reporters.
“By arresting and intimidating journalists, confiscating newspapers and attempting to censor news dissemination, the Sudanese authorities keep trying to get journalists to stick to the official narrative or pay the price,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.
The Sudanese authorities arrested the journalists while they were reporting on demonstrations in Khartoum, according to the statement, which cited news reports and the independent Sudanese Journalists Network.
The Sudanese official declined to comment on the CPJ report.
The US State Department said it was aware of the detentions and was closely following the reports.
“We condemn the harassment, arbitrary detention, and attacks on journalists in Sudan who are doing their jobs and exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
AFP confirmed the detention of one of its journalists. In an article, the news agency said its management strongly condemned the arrest and asked for his immediate release.
Protests and clashes with security forces broke out across Sudan this month after Khartoum imposed tough economic measures in line with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund.