The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, today vehemently condemned the decision of the government of Sudan to close the Al Jazeera bureau in Khartoum and ban its journalists from reporting.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network said in a statement that Sudan has abruptly closed down the bureau and banned Al Jazeera reporters from carrying out their duties.

The decision to close the Al Jazeera bureau was announced amidst continuing protests against the transitional government in the country, which replaced the regime of Omar Al-Bashir that was ousted on April 11 following protests against his authoritarian rule. A Transitional Military Council (TMC) took over the administration, but protests have continued outside the military headquarters in the capital demanding immediate handover of the reins of power to a civilian government.

A spokesman of the TMC said yesterday that “unruly” elements were responsible for the protests, but the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheads the ongoing protests, has blamed the TMC for the deaths of three people in the last two days, and pointed out that the army had deployed reinforcements around the protest site.

“IPI has been monitoring developments in Sudan over the past months and reported about numerous attacks on journalists – from detentions to violence against them to administrative measures aimed at preventing their coverage. In the face of this deeply problematic situation, we were hopeful that the Transitional Military Council (TMC) would ensure journalists’ ability to work in Sudan without fear of retaliation”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said.

“It is disturbing that the TMC, which has been charged with ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy, is now itself failing to respect the fundamental principles of press freedom and access to information, which are at the core of any successful democratic transition”, Trionfi added. “We urge the TMC to immediately allow Al Jazeera to reopen its bureau and lift all bans on its reporters.”

Al Jazeera has been targeted by the Sudanese authorities in the past. In January, the al-Bashir regime had withdrawn the accreditation of the Al Jazeera correspondents Osama Ahmed and Ahmed Alrehaid as well as that of Al Jazeera Mubasher cameraman Badawi Bashir.