The Sudanese Media System – Script (en)

In this lecture, we shall discuss the media system in Sudan. According to my typology I subsume it as a media system of a presidential republic.

The presidential republican system is the model that we concentrate on in Sudan. The Sudanese political history is the basis for an explanation of the media system. It is very long and complicated and witnessed a great deal of alternations between a democratic regime and a military regime. And this is the reason for having different models for the media and press systems. In the Sudanese history, there have been several internal political conflicts and civil wars. The highlight is the civil war between the north and the south that resulted in the splitting-off of one third of the country in the year 2011 to form what is now South Sudan. These ethnic and tribal conflicts still have its effects on today’s society.

Slide 1:

The Political History in Sudan

·         The most important features of the Sudanese political history

o   Alternation of regime types (democratic vs. military)

o   Internal political conflicts and civil war.

o   The splitting-off of one third of the country (South Sudan) in year 2011.

o   Ethnic conflicts in some regions.

o   Most important is Darfour region.

These political conflicts go hand in hand with the alternation between democratic and military regimes, which led to transformations in the press systems in the country.

For example, the last military regime has transformed itself into a semi-democratic one. At the start of this regime, all newspapers were suspended and only one was left. Then two newspapers were established by the state, and accordingly they were governmental newspapers. Later some laws for journalism and publications were warranted, permitting private newspapers to be issued.


During the Third Military Regime

·         At the beginning, publishing of private newspapers was prohibited.

·         Two governmental newspapers were issued and also a military one.

·         Four laws for Journalism were warranted.

·         Issuance of private newspapers were permitted.

·         Council for Journalism review (observation) was established.

·         The security used to interfere in the press by confiscating articles and closing of newspapers.


The laws issued during this period are valid until now. We can look at this table to see the number of political and nonpolitical newspapers that exist in the country.


Name of the newspaper  


Newspaper of the public opinion (Saheefet al ra’ay al aam) Political / print
The Sudanese (Al Sudany) Political / print
The Journalism (Al Sahafa) Political / print
Last moment (Akher Lahza) Political / print
The Days (Al Ayam) Political / print
Al Khartoum (Al Khortoum) Political / print
The Alert (Al Entebaha) Political / print
The Daily Ahram (Al Ahram Al Youmy) Political / print
The Newspaper (Al Jareeda) Political / print
Today’s news (Akhbar Al Youm) Political / print
The Current (Al Tayyar) Political / print
Freedoms (Horeyaat) Political / internet
Sudanile Political / internet
The Mount (Al Rakouba) Political / internet
Suna – Sudan News Agency News Agency
The Sudanese Center for Journalism Services News Agency


As I mentioned, there were two governmental newspapers that have now been confiscated. Instead, there are now a huge number of private newspapers that count almost 41 daily ones.

Therefore, we could say that this transformation led to the existence of new types for journalism laws. Looking back in history, we see that a variety of laws had existed that formed the basis for respective journalism practices in Sudan.


Laws for Journalism and Publications

·         The British Condominium set the first law for Press in the year 1930. Its most important articles were:

o   Obtaining of issuance license.

o   Payment of a sum of money as an insurance.

o   Annual renewal of the license.

·         This can be considered the basis for all further press laws issued later on in Sudan.


The British Condominium set the first law for the Press in the year 1930 and established a licensing system for newspapers. This can be considered the basis for all further press laws issued later on in Sudan.


The Military Regimes and the Press Laws

Three laws were issued:

·         The First Military Regime: 1958-1964

o   The accreditation of the Law of year 1930 and in authority of this law, newspapers were confiscated and prohibited from publishing, and journalists were sentenced.

·         The Second Military Regime: 1969-1985

o   The issuance of the first complete press law was in 1972.

o   All newspapers became owned by the socialistic union as other ownerships were prohibited.

o   The journalists were working according to the approval of the press council, which had the authority to withdraw their press identification cards.


This law was followed by a number of laws during the first military regime from 1958-1964.

At the time during the first military era when the press was private and permitted the issuance of the newspapers, it was surrounded by martial laws, systems and regulations.


During the First Martial Era

·         The issuance of private newspapers was permitted.

·         A committee for press control was formed at the Ministry of Interior

·         The Ministry of Interior proceeded to confiscate newspapers that adopted the political issues.

·         Some newspapers were closed just because they published articles criticizing the regime.


During the second military regime from 1969-1985 the law of 1972 was issued. All newspapers became owned by the socialistic union as other ownerships were prohibited.

The transformation during the second military regime, was that partisan newspapers were closed and another kind of journalism was established. One that followed the ruling party at that time, and this was the socialistic union. Later, one news agency was established called: “Suna”. During this period, all newspapers in the country that existed at that time were nationalized. One council was established, named the press and publications council and the law for press and publications was issued


During the Second Military Era

·         All newspapers were nationalized in 1970.

·         Council for Press and Publications was established in 1972.

·         The first national law for press was issued in 1972.

·         Two political newspapers following the ruling party were established.

·         The newspapers became part of the media tools of the State.


And during the third military regime that started in the 1990s various laws were issued and they were four concluded by what was known as law of 2009. Accordingly, it was mandatory to obtain licenses for publishing newspapers and it was not allowed to practice journalism before obtaining a membership identification cards, which were issued by the State represented by the press council. There have been sanctions for a long list of taboos.


The Third Military Regime

It issued three laws: 1994/2004/2009

·         It is mandatory to obtain licenses for newspapers’ establishment.

·         It is mandatory to pay a sum of money as an insurance.

·         The “Press Council” was established to supervise the newspapers.

·         It was not allowed to practice journalism before obtaining the membership identification cards, which were issued by the State represented by the press council.

·         Accreditation of a series of sanctions for a long list of taboos.

·         The Security System practiced a “tribal supervision” on the newspapers for review prior to its publication.



The press during the second military regime was nationalized and two newspapers owned by the State were issued. When the third military regime came, it started with one military newspaper and after that it issued two other newspapers and after a couple of years, it transformed to the private press or the liberal one, however, with a lot of restrictions. These restrictions were formed by four laws for press and publications and it is at present the basis.


During the Third Martial Era

·         At the beginning issuance of private newspapers was prohibited.

·         Two governmental newspapers were issued and a martial one.

·         A couple of press laws were warrented amounting to four.

·         Issuance of private newspapers was permitted.

·         A council was formed to control the press.

·         The security intervened with the press work either by confiscation or prohibition of writing or closure of newspapers.


While the press remains now a privately owned business, the government had for a long time complete dominance over both the Radio & Television corporations. Sudan was one of the first African countries in which the television broadcasting was introduced (1961). In 1972, the broadcasting of two first regional channels started in south Sudan and the ElGazira state. Nowadays, there are two governmental satellite TV channels and they are: “El Sudan Television” (Television Al-Sudan) and “Blue Nile Channel” (Television Al-Nil Al-Azraq). Lately, the state has established local TV channels, too. And there is a kind of partner-ownership between the governmental television and private initiatives that has evolved. There are now a couple of private political channels, entertainment and cultural public ones such as “Al-Shorouk” and “Om Dorman” and “Angham”.


Television in Sudan

·         Sudan was one of the first African countries in which the television broadcasting was introduced (1961).

·         In 1972, the broadcasting of two first regional channels started in south Sudan and the ElGazira state.

·         Nowadays, there are two governmental satellite TV channels and they are: “El Sudan Television” (Television Al-Sudan) and “Blue Nile Channel” (Television Al-Nil Al-Azraq).

·         There are a couple of private political channels, entertainment and cultural public ones such as “Al-Shorouk” and “Om Dorman” and “Angham”.

·         Now, each state has one official TV (ground) channel, and some have satellite channels.



Dr. Hashem ElGaz

Secretary General for the Council of Press and Publications

About the Press Laws in Sudan


We conclude this lecture by listening to Dr. Hashem ElGaz, and he is the former secretary general for the Council of Press and Publications, Professor of Mass Communication at the Islamic Omdurman University. He is speaking about the developments of the press, the press councils and the press laws in Sudan.

In the name of God, the Merciful, the press in Sudan has been governed by a number of laws till present. There are eight laws that have controlled the Sudanese press since 1930. After about thirty years since it started and till the current year 2015, i.e. in 85 years the Sudanese press was governed by almost eight laws.

The first law issued was the colonial one in 1930 after 30 years since the first newspapers had appeared. There was a necessity to organize the press. During this period, the British Administration was working on organizing the press in Sudan. And in fact a couple of instructions were given with this law for press and publications as issued in 1930. Later, the publications bylaws were issued in 1931. Though Britain in general was fighting for freedoms’ protection according to the well-known British Acts, the law in Sudan was more totalitarian and expressed the authoritative power of the British Administration during its rule in Sudan.

This law governed the press work in Sudan till years 1972/1973, when the regime of President Numairi warranted the law. Until then, a lot of amendments were made to the law of year 1930 such as bylaws as of 1948 and some other amendments that had taken place after the independence and the installment of a national government in 1956. However, the law remained the same apart from some labeling, adjusted to suit the national era in Sudan.

The second law came in 1972/1973, and it was another authoritative one expressing the views of the ruling authority during that period, which did not allow any political pluralism or press pluralism. So, according to this law, two newspapers were issued. Also, the press councils were introduced through this law, although there had already some attempts to do so in 1965. Now, all councils’ members were appointed by the ministers’ council.

Actually, the press performance did not really need to be observed back then, because it was a kind of a governmental one. Journalists during this period were more or less closer to being governmental employees. There was no need to control this sphere through civil and criminal laws.

Also, the press council did not have much of a say, and no major presence, because all work was governed by the socialistic union which was the sole political power present. Through its committees chief editors, and chairpersons were appointed and it used to also set the press policy of that time.

After power was transferred from President Numairi through a popular revolution, a transitional period started in 1985. During this transitional period the press faced a number of problems regarding its re-organization and it remained difficult to identify who should practice journalism. However, after 16 years of restriction there was a tremendous liberation, resulting in a huge number of newspapers issued and journalists requesting the abolishment of any form of regulation even the ones regulating the profession itself.

So, a number of independent newspapers were issued, partisan newspapers, and also newspapers related to regional parties or national ones, and other newspapers that were later accused of being affiliated to foreign embassies.

Truly, this period caused a big problem in the press work in Sudan. Laws and bylaws warranted at that time, which regulated the press work did not fulfill its duties and there was no self-regulation granted to the press organizations such as the journalists union.

This issue remained even after the pluralistic government  headed by El-Sayed El-Sadeq El-Mahdy was established between 1986 and 1989.

During this period the Prime Minister El-Mahdy himself was complaining about press problems. He started calling for the regulation of press work. There was a direction to warrant a new press law to govern the press work.

However, the coup in 1989 clearly demolished all these directions to regulate the press and maintain press pluralism. It came up with internal bylaws confiscating all newspapers. There was also no room for any publications other than the main governmental ones.

At the beginning, there was only one newspaper expressing the army’s views after the coup, followed by the national rescue newspaper and the New Sudan newspaper (sa7eefet al sudan al hadeeth). A number of meetings and conferences were held, most importantly “the conference for dialogue about the year’s issues” in February 1990. The purpose of this conference was to regulate the media work.

During this conference, a number of opinions surfaced prevailing the need for laws governing the press, maintaining freedom for press publications other than the governmental ones. This never happened until the issuance of the law for press and publications in 1993 and this was the second law after the one of 1972/1973 to appear as an independent one.

In this law, the council for press and publications was explicitly meant to govern the press. In fact, the national council for press and publications was formed in 1993 and it pertained a number of press regulations. During this period, the law granted the appointment of its member directly to the government. The council was formed out of 21 members. They were mainly appointed instead of truly representing the press entities which should have been represented.

These laws, or the following ones, always were very traditional and typical in their conceptualization. Their first chapter always included the preface decrees that identify the areas of its applications and the press’ basic principles. Followed by the other chapters emphasizing the establishment of the council, its authorities, specializations, formation and foundations, meetings and also its president’s and secretary general’s authorities and also the requirements for working in the press field, such as the journalists’ rights, duties, licenses and publisher’s rights and other issues such as sanctions and penalties for journalists and publishers.

Although the main obligation of the council was to govern the press, it did not go beyond the role of administration that regulated the press as it was in the previous old regimes.

There was an attempt to make the councils a platform to express the views of the journalists by setting up elections in journalists’ and publishers’ entities, and also representatives of the national council so that they were to represent the society. However the suspicion remained that all who join the council belong to the ruling party.

During the past period, after the rising of pluralism in Sudan through the law of 2004 and of 2009, attempts were made for elections taking place at faculties of journalism. However the major problem remained because these councils were not totally independent from the government and therefore it sometimes witnessed interference by the judicial or the security authorities.

In the law of 2004, many amendments were made to the law of 1993 and also in the law of 2009. It tried to grant the journalists some benefits such as the right to have access to information and data, prohibition of sentencing them to court prior to notification of the general journalists’ union.

However, the big issue that still accompanies the presswork to date is the intervention of the security, namely the Sudanese security service, and also the Ministry of Justice, which both restrict press releases. These two issues remain the main causes for the press’ problems in Sudan and would remain until the relation between the press council [which is protecting, developing and promoting the profession] and the Security authorities [which should not intervene in the press without court rulings] is clearly defined.

Also, there are the administrative sanctions that the press faces through the articles in the law for press and publications either in the law of the years 1993/2004/2009. There shouldn’t be any kind of rulings or sanctions against newspapers and journalists unless there is a court ruling.

Generally, these are the issues the press is facing in Sudan and unless the press councils fulfill its duties by promoting, developing and protecting the press and its freedoms, also granting the protection of journalists through legislations that support the unions and press organizations, the case remains the same.

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