To the Editors:
As members of PEN American Center, we write to call attention to grave freedom-to-write violations in Sudan, and encourage other writers to lend their voice to an international campaign to bring about the restoration of fundamental human rights in that country.
Until a coup which took place on June 30 of last year, Sudan had one of the freest presses in sub-Saharan Africa. As documented by Africa Watch and other human rights organizations, at least nine writers are now imprisoned, without charges, under degrading conditions of confinement. They include Writers’ Union leader Kamal al Gizouli, poet and teacher Mahjoub Sharif, Al-Ayam editor Mohamed Mahjoub Osman, Al-Midan editor Tijani el Tayeb and al R’ay al Amm editor Mohamed Medani Tawfiq. Where a year ago there were forty independent newspapers and journals, now only three government-sponsored newspapers are permitted to publish. The government must approve all travel by journalists.
We have called upon the Sudanese authorities to release all those imprisoned for exercising internationally protected rights of freedom of expression, and to permit independent newspapers to re-open. We urge other concerned writers to do the same. Appeals may be addressed to His Excellency Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Head of State, Defense Minister and Commander-in-Chief, Army Headquarters, Khartoum, Sudan.
PEN American Center
New York City