Security forces in Sudan banned yesterday a number of Khartoum dailies, the star among them al-Intibaha, specifically banned indefinitely. According to the Sudan Media Centre (SMC), an organ proximate to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), al-Intibaha has strayed far away from the commitments of the Interim Constitution (2005) and the journalists Code of Honour. Moreover unconfirmed reports claim that the Executive Board of the paper has decided to dissolve the publishing company altogether. In an immediate response, al-Tayeb Mustafa, Chairman of the Executive Board and owner of the paper, also the President’s uncle, and the most prominent columnist of al-Intibaha told Quds Press that the ban of his paper is an outcome of an undisclosed deal between the SPLM and the NCP.
al-Intibaha started publication early 2006, as an organ of the Just Peace Form, an offshoot of the NCP whose prime line of advocacy is separation of the South on the grounds that North and South are irreconcilable others, racially, religiously and culturally; and that the South has persistently been a burden on the Arab Moslem North economically, and an exhaustion militarily. al-Tayeb Mustafa gained prominence as the principal racespeak general of Sudanese riverain chauvinism. His daily column dedicated to the disrepute of all things SPLM, and all notions secular, was widely read since it captured to a degree the sentiments of scare from a revenge takeover by the ‘marginalised’, an idea he persistently transmitted in terms of racial and cultural corruption.
As part of the overall racespeak policy of the paper al-Intibaha maintained a focus on Southern affairs, reporting extensively on disputes inside the SPLM and anti-SPLM forces. The paper more or less celebrated tribal collisions in the South, and rejoiced at the Athor and Co rebellion. In the run up to the elections al-Intibaha fiercely campaigned against the Northern Sector of the SPLM and its presidential candidate Yasir Arman. It instigated and nourished visceral riverain Sudanese fears of a ‘black belt’ that threatens to throttle an island of Arab-Moslem civilisation.
Similar to Turabi’s detention al-Intibaha’s ban puts Khartoum’s liberals and professional democrats before a test of ‘moral’ principle. Should they support the ban of a paper that they have continually criticised as being racist and chauvinist and thus commend the actions of the NISS; or should they defend al-Intibaha’s formal right to exist in line with their commitment to the freedom of speech. Probably many will choose a legal twist and claim that the problem is the arbitrary nature of the NISS intervention and that the ban lacks the correct judicial procedure. I wonder if we are to witness a pro-freedoms solidarity carnival where opposition figures and journalists deplore freedom restricting laws, however this time in the premises of al-Intibaha!