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Sudan seizes newspapers that reported on three-day strike

Al-Tayyar is frequently seized by security agents in Sudan [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 November, 2016

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All copies of four independent newspapers in Sudan have been seized by security agents after reporting on a three-day strike called by the opposition over fuel subsidy cuts.
Sudanese security agents seized all copies of four independent newspapers on Tuesday after they reported on a three-day strike called by the opposition over fuel subsidy cuts, staff said.

Members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated copies of al-Tayar, al-Jadida, al-Ayyam and al-Youm al-Tali newspapers overnight without giving a reason.

"At 2:00 am today (2300 GMT Monday) an NISS officer came and ordered our printer to stop printing," said al-Tayyar editor-in-chief Osman Mirgani.

"He confiscated the entire print run without giving any reason."

Al-Tayyar, which has faced similar action in the past, had given the strike extensive coverage.

"Exceptional Day in Khartoum," it headlined on its front page on Monday.

Al-Jadida editor Ashraf Abdelaziz said the paper's managers were considering whether to try to publish on Wednesday after its Tuesday edition was confiscated.

"It's a big financial loss when copies are confiscated as we have to pay the printer and also lose advertisement revenues," he said.

Nationwide strike

Discontent has been simmering for weeks over the subsidy cuts, which have led to a sharp rise in the cost of other goods, and opposition groups called for a nationwide strike from Sunday.

The strike call came despite the arrest of at least a dozen opposition leaders as authorities sought to prevent any repetition of deadly unrest that followed a previous round of subsidy cuts in 2013.

The streets of Khartoum were deserted on Sunday morning – the start of the working week in Sudan – as some bus drivers stopped work and many people stayed at home for fear of clashes between strikers and the security forces.

A private TV channel has also been ordered off the air.

Authorities halted broadcasts by the Omdurman Channel on Sunday, accusing it of operating without a licence, a charge its owner denied.

"Today at 8:30pm we received a letter from the authorities saying the channel has been stopped from broadcasting because it didn't have a licence," Hussein Khojali, owner of 24-hour entertainment network Omdurman Channel told AFP on Sunday. "This is completely false."

He said the channel had obtained a licence six years ago when it was launched.

"We started six years ago. The letter also did not specify from when it was supposed to stop broadcasting."

Khojali, a newspaper columnist, also owns Alwan, a daily newspaper, and FM radio station al-Masah.

"We are doing our job in a professional manner," Khojali said.

Press Freedom

Media in Sudan are frequently targeted for their reporting, and journalists frequently complain of harassment from the authorities.

NISS often confiscates the entire print runs of newspapers over articles it deems offensive, rarely explaining why.

Earlier this month, Sudanese security agents seized every copy of three opposition newspapers, including al-Tayyar, after they reported a rise in the country's fuel prices.

"Security agents came to our printers early this morning and took all copies of today's edition without giving any reason," Mirgani said at the time.

In September 2015, all copies of al-Khartoum and al-Sudani newspapers were confiscated after they reported critical stories about water poisoning in the country's south.

The country regularly ranks near the bottom of international press freedom indexes.

It ranked 174 out of 178 countries on Reporters Without Borders' 2016 international press freedom index.

Agencies contributed to this report

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