Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sudan- Journalism Without Journalists

The message arrived at 9:30 , I was on my way to interview one of Sudan's most-famous journalists. It was from my former colleague and friend, Mohamed Subahi who informed me that the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) banned him from writing. Subahi to those who don't know him , is a business graduate with a master's degree and an exceptional commitment to tell the story of young men such as himself- the victims of circumstances - they can't get married and are struggling to help their families make ends meet.

Adding Subahi's name to the list, there are currently 12 journalists banned from writing in Sudan by the NISS. They are all excellent journalists , some have over 10 years in experience, some have worked as journalists since their graduation from university. 

They are all dedicated (and may I add "addicted" , its a word creative people tend to use in reference to the way they love their work) to their work even though it does not offer them a great income and its mentally and physically exhausting.

Since his graduation from university a few years ago, Mujahid Abdullah has worked as a journalist at a number of newspapers. Lately, he was working at Alwan until he was stopped my writing by the NISS. When I interviewed him for one of my articles, he communicated a lot of frustration through a phone interview. He felt like a prisoner, he was "confiscated" along with his pen. 

If you are banned, no newspaper can hire you and you can't work in the journalism field. Sudan is very expensive, people work long hours to make ends meet. Now with the NISS banning writers and suspending newspaper (Rai-Al-Shab , Ahjras Al Hurriya etc), you can not begin to imagine how this has affected the lives of journalists. 

Let me tell you a little story. Last year, I went to Ahjras Al Hurriya to write a story about how the closure has affected the staff. One older man I spoke to summarized the struggle through a little story.

He told how he is very sad that he was having a hard time convincing his son to continue his university education . His son who is the eldest wanted to help his father who lost his job and was not making money and almost left university to get a job and support the family.

This man has 5 children and is one of at least 50 employees who all lost their jobs after Ahjras Al Hurriya was closed down.

Being a journalist with principles is very difficult. You have to pay for your opinions and principals and the price is too high in a country where the prices are too high.

One journalist who also lost his job told me that not only did he lose his job, but he also faces a social stigma in his neighborhood .

"NCP-supporters instigated the owner of the grocery shop and the bakery next to my house, I used to take things on loan and pay them when I had money, they don't deal with me anymore," he told me.

Another unemployed journalist told me that its either he sell his morals and ethics or leave Sudan.

A while ago, I remember reading a small article about journalists who have lost their jobs. It was something along the lines of "they come to talk and discuss current events at the tea lady, then end up taking transportation money from the tea lady."

But then again, an institution such as the NISS does not care whether you have a family or your kids go to bed hungry. We still have journalism in Sudan, we have about 22 daily newspapers, but we are lacking journalists.

The kind of journalists that write about how we feel, how we are not living. I miss reading Amel Habbani's column, small things, and I will miss reading about the problems facing young men in Sudan through the column of Mohamed Subahi. 

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