Sudanese Journalists Create Independent Union to Defend Freedoms

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Protesters run amid tear gas as a riot vehicle is seen during a rally against military rule after the latest coup, in Khartoum, Sudan August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdullah/File Photo

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KHARTOUM, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Sudanese journalists have formed the country’s first independent professional union in decades in what activists say was a major step towards restoring freedoms after a military coup.

“Victory is getting our union back after more than 30 years to defend the freedom and professionalism of the press,” said journalist Waleed Alnour, who waited for hours in the sun to vote in a leadership election. of the union on Sunday.

The union has 1,164 members, 659 of whom participated in Sunday’s vote.

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Shadow unions that sprung up in opposition to autocrat Omar al-Bashir, which brought together unions with pro-regime members, were instrumental in an uprising that toppled him in 2019.

A military coup last October ended a civilian power-sharing deal that followed the uprising.

The coup also led to the suspension of a radio station and some television journalists were attacked, raided or arrested, which they blamed on security forces and loyalists. the old regime.

Journalists aligned with Bashir had tried to prevent Sunday’s vote from going ahead by filing an ongoing legal complaint, saying the union could not replace the pre-existing Bashir-era union.

However, the head of the electoral commission, Faisal Mohamed Salih, who served as information minister in a civilian-led government between the uprising and the coup, said the vote “took place in a totally democratic…smoothly and with strong participation and enthusiasm among the journalists”.

Civil society observers, including some members of opposition lawyers’ groups, attended the election.

Abdelmoniem Abu Idrees, a journalist working for the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), was elected head of the union. Votes were counted for the rest of the union’s 40 leaders.

The Bahri Resistance Committees, one of the groups leading ongoing protests against military rule, said in a statement that the election was a milestone.

“We can only support it, because it lays the foundation for one of the main demands of our uprising, namely democracy.”

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Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; edited by Aidan Lewis and Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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