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Media reform in Sudan: The beginning of a new era for freedom of expression

Country: Sudan Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Following the 2019 Sudanese revolution and the signing of the August 2019 interim Constitutional Declaration, Sudan undertook an historic democratic transition. Substantial commitments in favour of media freedom and safety of journalists were made, and UNESCO Office in Khartoum has upscaled work in the Communication and Information field, initiating an assessment based on UNESCO s Media Development Indicators as a contribution to developing a Roadmap for Media Reform, as well as an assessment based on UNESCO s Internet Universality Indicators (IUI). For a long time, the lack of democracy did not allow media actors to play [their] true role, which is to reflect the problems faced by the Sudanese citizens , explains Ms. Lubna Abdalla, the President of the Sudanese Women Journalists Association. She recalls the difficulties faced by journalists trying to obtain information from governmental institutions. Ms. Abdalla hopes that the current shift will mean access to information for all journalists and the development of laws that protect democracy and press freedom, which will inevitably contribute to the progress of society. To her, the main challenges in this area are laws restricting press freedom. By conducting an assessment of Sudanese laws and policies, UNESCO has laid the groundwork for a comprehensive reform of media legislation in line with international standards. The resulting Media Reform Roadmap will lead to the creation of a National Action Plan. The [current] legal and regulatory frameworks are not consistent with [constitutional] guarantees or with international human rights standards - Abdelgadir Mohammed Abdelgadir, UNESCO national expert Such a reform is also deemed necessary by Ms Sara Fadul, the Director of the University of Khartoum Radio who observes that the existent legal framework laws was put in place in favor of the State rather than in favor of the media and the public . They are inherited from a time when Sudan was suffering from government interference, security control and censorship . One of the consequences is that today, still, publication violations are treated as criminal offenses rather than civil cases . As a result, reforming the media sector must be accompanied by deep and real reforms of the legal system in Sudan . Mr Abdelgadir also points out a holistic approach to reform would need the promotion of media independence and self-regulation, as well as investments on training for journalists and media workers, and in and modernization of public broadcasting service. The reach and diversity of broadcast media relevant to populations in the regions need to be increased, he adds, especially in rural areas . To success in a reform, Ms Fadul stresses the importance of participation and discussion engaging professionals from all concerned sectors, from decision-makers to researchers to training centers. That is why she praises UNESCO s multistakeholder approach, especially regarding its organization of seminars, meetings, workshops and conferences to reflect on the main issues surrounding the media sector in Sudan. She also underlines the importance of addressing all aspects of media work during said events, including media content, development, freedom of expression, sources, rights and responsibilities of journalists, along with a focus on the technical and economic aspects of implementing operations . From the shift that kicked off the reshaping of the Sudanese political landscape to the ongoing media reform process, she hopes for more space for freedom of expression and conditions that enable media workers to practice their work professionally in a democratic situation . About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP)
The multi-Donor programme on freedom of expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP) serves to further strengthen UNESCO s work at a global, regional, and national levels, by channeling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO s communication and information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic medium and long-term interventions at national, regional and global levels. The clear advantage of this mechanism is that it allows UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, whilst reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field. Protect journalists and freedom of expression, visit: Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists

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