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LONDON: Media watchdogs have called on Sudanese authorities to lift the suspension imposed on three Gulf networks earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Sudan’s state news agency announced that the Ministry of Culture and Information had suspended the operations of Saudi state-owned broadcasters Al Arabiya and Al Hadath, as well as the Emirati channel Sky News Arabia in the country.

The decision was attributed to a “lack of commitment to required professionalism and transparency, and failure to renew licenses,” as stated by SUNA, the Sudanese state news agency.

US-based media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the decision in a statement on Wednesday urging authorities to allow the channels to resume operating. 

“The Sudanese Ministry of Media and Culture’s decision to ban news channels Sky News Arabia, Al Arabiya, and Al Hadath is unacceptable during wartime, when media coverage is crucial,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York.

“Sudanese authorities must immediately revert its decision to ban the three news channels and allow them to continue working in Sudan.”

The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate also criticized the move by the information ministry, calling it a press freedom violation.

“Closing satellite channels and restricting those working in the profession would silence the voice of the professional media and would also open the door to the spread of rumors and hate speech,” the group said Tuesday in a statement.

Since April 2023, Sudan has been engulfed in an internal conflict between the state army, largely supportive of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by former warlord Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

The strife stems from a disagreement over an internationally endorsed plan for a political transition toward civilian rule and free elections.

The UN describes the conflict as “one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history,” contributing to the world’s most severe displacement crisis, with over 8 million people displaced internally and across Sudan’s borders.

According to a report by CPJ, the RSF has controlled the state television headquarters since April 15, when paramilitary forces began battling the Sudanese army.

Throughout the conflict, numerous journalists in the country have lost their lives and faced shootings, harassment, and detentions while covering the hostilities, as highlighted in the committee’s report.

In 2023, Reporters Without Borders ranked Sudan 148th out of 180 countries in terms of media freedom.