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Media law reform

A requirement for Sudan’s quest for democracy
Media law

The work on media law reform, in which UNESCO has been participating with the support of the Multi-Donor Programme, has involved studying existing media laws and drafting revised laws to ensure that they met international standards. UNESCO continues supporting the development of Sudan’s media law, which, in the words of Hilmi has been 'difficult and satisfying'.

The Multi-Donor Programme has been active in Sudan since 2019. In December 2020 a ministerial decree was issued to form the Sudan Media Reform Committee to oversee media law reform. Hind Hilmi, who is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at University of Khartoum, was one of the Committee members.

Media reform is one of the pillars that is a requirement for Sudan’s quest for democracy. The Committee worked on a voluntary basis and had to sit for hours to finish the job, facing many challenges. The most important part was getting the journalists involved in writing the laws, since they are practitioners and have been working under a dictatorial regime for the last thirty years. Their ambitions were great and they were enthusiastic about the exercise.
Hind Hilmi Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at University of Khartoum

The project brought together partners across Sudan - including the Ministry of Information, UNESCO, journalists, the Faculty of Law at the University of Khartoum and the Sudan Media Reform Committee.

The Sudanese media laws that were revised included the Law on the Protection of Journalists, Radio and Television Law and the Access to Information Law.

Each law was drafted and amended, then later formed the backbone of discussions that took place in different governates in Sudan. Reforming these laws will reap huge benefits, according to Hilmi.

The change in media laws will reflect a society that entertains freedom of expression and the right to acquire information. It will also reveal corruption and malpractices.
Hind Hilmi

Partners also attended workshops run by UNESCO, which have been rolled out across Sudan since 2019: “I had the opportunity to attend the workshop conducted by UNESCO about Eradicating Hate Speech which was beneficial in post-conflict regions such as Sudan after signing the Juba Peace agreement. People were expected to overcome war atrocities and come together to build new peaceful Sudan.”

But sometimes, unstable political situations force a stop to UNESCO’ work. This was the case in Sudan when on 25 October 2021, the military took over the control of the government. Unfortunately, the current political situation affected the whole process of democratisation and stopped most of the activities that were scheduled after 25 October 2021. Many visits to the provinces and workshops were not conducted. Hilmi stresses how progress made by UNESCO and partners must continue when the situation stabilises: “I urge UNESCO and its partners to resume its work on this crucial project of media reforms because of its dire importance.”

Hilmi concludes that “As a University Professor of Communication, it was a great experience to work closely with other experts in media reform because this will impact positively on our society and on students who are tomorrow’s media practitioners. Yet the dawn of democracy is yet to be reached in Sudan.”

Having a free, independent media that serves the public interest is one of the pillars of democracy – it ensures journalists can report without fear or bias, and that citizens can make informed choices, not least about how they vote.

In the period from 2018- 2021, UNESCO, through its Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP), has provided technical support and policy advice and has advocated for media law reforms in 18 countries across Africa, the Arab Region, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America & the Caribbean.