Sudan Shuts Al Jazeera Office for ‘Hurting Interests with Coverage’

The Sudanese government has closed the Khartoum office of the 24-hour news station, Al Jazeera Direct, over what it termed  “unprofessional” coverage that has damaged the country’s interests and national security.

A letter from the Ministry of Information addressed to the manager of the Khartoum office said that the station had hurt Sudan’s social fabric by airing programs which ran contrary to its conduct, customs, and morals.

Additionally, the channel broadcast inappropriate and outdated videos, which were detrimental to the nation’s interests and national security, according to the ministry.

A copy of the letter, shared on Sunday, was signed by the ministry’s acting undersecretary, Nasr Al Deen Khaled.

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The Al Jazeera television network, which includes Al Jazeera Direct, did not immediately comment on the government’s decision.

Ministry officials did not specify which story Al Jazeera Direct broke that upset them, but both the timing and the phrasing of the letter seem to indicate it was related to street protests against military rule that followed the October 25 coup that ended Sudan’s democratic transition.

Al Jazeera Direct covered the protests live. Video of the protests was seen throughout Sudan and beyond after authorities blocked internet and telephone connections on days of major rallies so activists and organisers could not share live video.

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Sudan’s western allies strongly criticized the disruptions, as well as using force against protesters and closing Nile bridges in Khartoum.

However, the authorities did not disrupt internet or telephone services during the last two protests.

There have been at least 64 deaths and thousands of injuries in the protests since the coup. Reporters and cameramen have also been attacked and detained by security forces. In one incident, they raided the Khartoum offices of Al Hadath television, part of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network, beating the staff with sticks and taking their equipment.

64 people were killed during the protests, according to a list published by the Health Ministry over the weekend. Among them, 51 were under the age of 20. The oldest victim was 70 and the youngest was 13.

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