KHARTOUM (Reuters) - President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Saturday ordered the release of all Sudanese journalists, saying Khartoum respects responsible freedom of expression.
Witnesses said the decision to free about six journalists in detention came after he attended an annual function by journalists linked to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“In honour of this occasion and to journalists, I order the release of all detained journalists,” Bashir said at the end of the function in Khartoum. “We call for freedom and responsibility,” he added.
Authorities accuse the journalists, most of whom are employed by the Netherlands-registered Radio Dabanga, of working for rebels in Darfur and for the International Criminal Court, which is seeking the arrest of Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide. Bashir rejects the charges.
Some 13 staff at Dabanga and pro-democracy group HAND were arrested last year, along with another prominent Darfuri journalist known as Jaafar al-Sadki, who works for the independent al-Sahafa paper. Radio Dabanga is not licensed to operate in Sudan.
Sudan has been known to tightly control radio and television stations, especially in Darfur, where a revolt has claimed thousands of lives. Khartoum had refused to allow U.N. radio station Miraya to broadcast in the north of the country.