A few days ago, our Foreign Minister Ali Karti lamented the fact that our Sudanese media was almost wholly in Arabic and, as such preaching to the converted and not targeting any Western audience. He was right. One can add that several high-level resolutions were taken over the years to introduce daily English or French television news bulletins for one or two hours. That actually took off but soon financial and other factors forced a suspension. The same can be said about Omdurman Radio.
The magazine “Sudan Now” had some glorious years and several problems. I was a regular contributor and knew that distribution abroad had restricted its reach. Southern Sudanese newspapers in English have now “seceded” and moved to Juba.
Sudan Vision is unique; not only because it is the only defender of Sudan’s corner in English; but because it does so in the face of overwhelming anti-Sudanese media power that relies on spin and falsehoods.
Freedom of the press in the West is not a fallacy. It is a pillar of democratic institutions, helping to expose and harass government; but it has an Achilles heel, namely finance and ownership.
When Harold Evans was questioned by Lord Justice Leveson’s enquiry about relations with Rupert Murdoch (who bought The Times and became Evans’s boss) he revealed that Mr. Murdoch broke his promise to maintain the independence of The Times. He spoke of “a year of constant editorial interference”. A leader writer was summoned, behind Evans’s back, and told: “You should be attacking the Russians more”.(The Guardian 17th May 2012)
This is a rare glimpse into the way the freedom of the press is harnessed by ownership, and it is relevant to the Sudan too. When the Justice and Equality Movement attacked Omdurman (10th May 2008) Murdoch’s Times sent senior reporter Anthony Lloyd who not only lionised the war lord and praised his adventure in which many Omdurman citizens were killed; ;but volunteered a military advice “Point to note, next time – do it at night(The Times 7th April 2009) Thus The Times with all its history as a reliable reference was diminished by ideological animosity to The Sudan to a tabloid role of incitement and support for a terror group. Could that have taken place without a nod from above – Sir H. Evans’s testimony tells us that such an assumption was unlikely.
Another Sudan related example is “The Independent” newspaper which was quite fair in responding to our letters and published several. It also published the important statement of G. Bush’s former envoy to the Sudan J. Danforth that describing the Darfur crisis casualties as “genocide” was prompted by the desire to satisfy the Christian Right in the USA in the run up to the 04 presidential Elections. (The Independent 2nd May 2005)
Then came a turning point. The Independent was bought by a Russian Billionaire (BBC News 25th March 2010) a former KGB functionary, Alexander Lebedev. The editorial line vis a’ vis The Sudan changed to open hostility and unfairness. The latest letter they refused to publish (under the new management) was linked to correcting a historical error. On 28th June 2012 an inset to Daniel Howden’s article “Has the Arab spring now spread to Sudan? Informs the readers about “Sudan’s violent overthrow of British Rule in the 1950’s” Our ambassador’s letter said “The condominium rule (Britain and Egypt) ended peacefully and democratically after a vote in the Sudanese transitional Parliament on 19th December 1955 which was accepted by Britain and Egypt. A tea party was given to the British Civil servants. The statues of General Gordon and Kitchener were returned to the UK intact and the Union Jack was lowered in a ceremony and returned to London. No Mau Mau style violence occurred in the Sudan in the run up to independence.”
Thus the Independent joined hands with such organisations as “Waging Peace” that opposes trade and business relations with the Sudan and Aegis Trust that calls for reducing diplomatic relations with the Sudan.
Well-funded websites based in Paris, Radio stations based in Holland have mushroomed, all targeting the Sudan.
The most glaring expression of the campaign is not these above quoted examples or even the Save Darfur Coalition + Enough Project in the US. It is indisputably the executive order of sanctions signed by George W. Bush that was tailored to exempt the South and (amazingly) target within Khartoum only the parts inhabited by Arabic speaking Muslims!! If this is not blatant racism – what is? (Executive Order 13412 – dated 13th October 2006)
In response to all this, we have more than enough Arabic rebuttals. Sudan Vision is the only English speaking voice. Its task is difficult; but it is unique. It is a privilege and an honour to be part of it.
It should be said with a loud voice that the West is not a solid homogeneous bloc against us. We have the goodwill of many people and organisations. We can assume that most of the thousands who took part in the Occupy Wall Street movement are not proud of Guantanamo bay, Abu Graib, the WMD lies, the financial crisis or the blockade of Gaza.
There is no fundamental contradiction between our national interests and those of the Western democracies. Even their multinationals have common interests with us. They can help extract our resources if the deals are fair and eco-friendly. We have no conflict with the common people anywhere, including the Israeli people.
It should also be said openly that the current far-right led campaign is not against the NCP or President Bashir. The target is the Sudan and its identity and existence. This enhances the role and the importance of Sudan Vision