KHARTOUM: An award-winning Sudanese journalist acquitted on Sunday of publishing lies hailed the verdict as a step forward for press freedom in the country where journalists complain of frequent censorship.
"I'm happy. It's a very important precedent," Faisal Mohammed Salih told AFP after Judge Esmat Suliman threw out the charge.
A member of Sudan's security bureau filed a criminal code complaint against Salih, alleging he had lied and insulted the state in a 2011 column about an activist's allegation of rape in custody.
Salih could have been jailed for up to six months if convicted.
The journalist "did not publish lies and did not insult the state", Suliman ruled.
"A lot of media published about this case."
In his article, Salih had called for a "serious investigation" into the activist's allegation that she was raped in detention.
Salih said the verdict should support the "watchdog" role of reporters in Sudan.
"It's very positive for the freedom of the press and the role of the press in society," he said, noting that the judge described his article as "very objective".
Other journalists were previously jailed and fined for writing about the activist's case, and one more reporter is still before the courts, Salih said.
Last year, another court acquitted Salih after security agents charged him following comments he made about President Omar al-Bashir.
Salih, who also teaches journalism and advocates for press freedom, said it was inappropriate for Bashir to call South Sudan's government an "insect".
In October, Salih travelled to Washington to receive the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
The annual prize is named for the late Agence France-Presse reporter and editor Peter Mackler.
Sudan ranks near the bottom, at 170 out of 179, in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2013 World Press Freedom Index.
Some publications have been banned, and security agents regularly confiscate newspapers to prevent their distribution after they roll off the presses.