Sudanese security forces raided the bureau of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news channel in Khartoum late last week amid a deadly military crackdown that ultimately led to troops moving in to crush a peaceful sit-in on Monday by opening gunfire, torching tents, and executing at least 30 people.
The pro-democracy protestors are reportedly demanding a transition to civilian rule after the ouster of Islamist-backed military dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April, facilitated by the Sudanese Professionals Association that triggered the demonstrations.
On Friday, the Associated Press (AP) noted:
The threat against the sit-in comes as civilian forces and the military remain divided over how much power soldiers should have in a transitional government. The protesters demand “limited military representation” on the council but the ruling generals refuse to relinquish power.
Despite scorching summer temperatures, the sit-ins took place from early April into the holy month of Ramadan — expected to end this week after triggering a spike in deadly Islamic terrorist attacks encouraged by jihadis and other Islamists across the world.
Although it is unclear which branch of the military carried out what the New York Times on Monday described as “the most concerted drive yet to disperse the protesters,” the American embassy attributed the lethal act to the Transitional Military Council (TMC) led by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
“Many protesters pointed [their fingers towards] members of the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary group led by the deputy military leader Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, widely known as Hemeti,” the Times reported, adding:
On the government side, General Hemeti and the paramilitary Rapid Security Forces have emerged as a powerful and largely unaccountable force. General Hemeti has also led Sudan’s deployment of thousands of soldiers to fight in Yemen on the side of the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition.
“The Qatar-funded satellite network has long drawn the ire of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, the four nations now locked in a nearly two-year boycott of Doha over a political dispute,” AP acknowledged.
Even after the Sudanese security forces raided the Al Jazeera office in the capital of Khartoum and reportedly shut it down for an indefinite period, the Qatari-owned news outlet continued to report on the conflict in the volatile African nation.
“Offices of other channels [in Sudan] were extensively searched but allowed to continue,” Radio Dabanga reported Sunday.
Via Twitter on May 30, Al Jazeera confirmed that Sudanese troops revoked the media credentials of its journalists and confiscated their tools.
— Al Jazeera PR (@AlJazeera) May 31, 2019
In a statement issued Friday, the Qatari news outlet reportedly said, “The network sees this as an attack on media freedom, professional journalism, and the basic tenets of the right for people to know and understand the reality of what is happening in Sudan,” AP noted.
The Sudanese government reportedly failed to officially announce Al Jazeera’s closure.
Radio Dabanga added:
In a statement on Friday, the Sudanese Journalists Network called the shut-down carried out by a mixed team of Military Intelligence, the Intelligence and Security Service, and External Information Secretariat agents on Thursday evening as “a new setback to public liberties and the gains of the revolution”.
The Committee for the Restoration of the Sudanese Journalists Union described the closure of Al Jazeera channel as “illegal and a violation of international conventions on freedom of information and expression.”
Sudanese journalists also blasted the military ban on broadcasts on Sudan TV of pro-democracy protestors sit-in activities in Khartoum.
Al Jazeera reportedly carried daily broadcasts of debates and other activities at the sit-in in front of the army command in the Sudanese capital — raging since April 6 following the removal of the Bashir regime.
The Qatari news channel also covered press briefings by the Bashir opposition.