Media and Information Ecosystem in Sudan (2020)

Sudan has experienced a period of great change and transition since the overthrow of the thirty-year dictatorship of Omar Al Bashir in 2019. While there is some hope for the transitional government, it remains a very unstable alliance between military and civilian cabinet representatives, and the pace of reform to date has been slow.

Economically, the state is in severe deficit with severe shortages of essential commodities. Inflation is at an all-time high, meaning that both the media and citizens are struggling to survive and there are very few options for diversifying revenue streams or income sources. While the situation for freedom of expression has notably improved under the current government, its military arm still maintains some control over the media with red lines around
reporting on the military, conflict, security, and police activities. Self-censorship by the media continues to be practiced when covering such topics.
Partisan media and practices that became endemic under the former regime still remain and little has changed in terms of the provision of independent news and content. The media that were previously controlled by the former regime and its cronies has become the voice of the opposition and those who opposed the former regime are considered by many stakeholders to be pro-government.

The widely consumed state media platforms are undergoing a transition that will eventually see their governance structures and content become reflective of public service broadcasters and media. This transition will be a long and challenging one as the government, its staff, and the public will all need a change of mindset in order to understand the true nature and role of public service broadcasting. Legislative reform for the media is underway, although there remains considerable resistance from the military against laws that can support free media. There are also long-established laws such as the Penal Code 2003 and the National Intelligence and Security Services Act 2010 that continue to be used to monitor and regulate the media landscape and activities.

Radio and television are the most popular platforms in Sudan although online and social media is becoming more widely consumed in Khartoum and other urban centers. Newspaper circulations are declining due to the prohibitive costs of distribution and production.

The whole Sudanese news culture needs to be reviewed as the news media is dominated by opinion, misinformation, and disinformation. Social media consumption is perpetuating this situation further as non- media-literate audiences continue to share inaccurate content in all forms.

High-quality journalism education and training are limited in Sudan, which is exacerbating the lack of professional skills and values in the media. Low salaries see journalists less motivated and willing to invest their time and energy into their work.

Representation of women and minorities is also weak in the Sudanese media, both in terms of content and in newsrooms. Media focus tends to be on news and events from Khartoum and a couple of other cities at best. The conflict in Darfur, Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains are largely underreported.

There are a number of grassroots initiatives and citizen journalism enterprises that are starting to address the information and media literacy gap that has come to denote the Sudanese media environment. Young internet-savvy civil society activists, some returning from the diaspora, are keen and driven to ensure that the aims and objectives of the revolution continue to be upheld throughout the transition.

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