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International media watchdog decries Sudan's press restrictions

January 9 - 2018 WASHINGTON
El Jareeda journalists in Khartoum, on strike to oppose the repeated newspaper confiscations and repression of media on 30 November 2016 (RD)
El Jareeda journalists in Khartoum, on strike to oppose the repeated newspaper confiscations and repression of media on 30 November 2016 (RD)

Reporters Without Borders condemned the confiscation of the print-runs of eight Sudanese newspapers in the past two days because of their coverage of the big increase in the price of bread and the resulting social unrest.

All copies of six newspapers reporting on the bread price hikes were seized as they came off the printing presses on January 7. Officers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) did not give an official explanation for the confiscation.

Four of these newspapers – El Tayyar, El Mustagilla, and El Sayha – are independent and two – Akhbar El Watan and El Midan – support opposition parties.

Yesterday the NISS seized all the copies of the daily El Jareeda and the weekly El Baath, which also covered protests against the price hikes in the capital, Khartoum, and in the Darfur and Blue Nile states. In a press statement received by Radio Dabanga today, Reporters Without Borders / Sans Frontières (RSF) said that El Midan was also seized on Monday because of its coverage of these protests, during which a student was killed on Sunday.

Akhbar El Watan editor Hanadi El Siddig said she was not “notified of the reasons for the seizure,” which she said was probably a reaction to the “transparent, honest and professional reporting on the price increase and the high cost of living.”

Journalist Khalid Fathi of El Tayyar daily independent newspaper told Radio Dabanga yesterday that “It has become usual for the authorities to take these arbitrary measures against the media, especially the newspapers, whenever they face a crisis”.

“They attempt to force the press to shift from providing the bare facts to becoming a government bulletin that daily trumpets the regime.”

RSF has pointed out in previous press releases that the practice of confiscations of print-runs has serious financial consequences for the targeted newspapers. In August last year, the international media freedom watchdog voiced concern about an increase in free speech violations by Sudan’s NISS since May.

Protests

On Sunday, the third day of demonstrations against the 300% price increases that hit the country last week, a student was killed in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina. Other parts of the country witnessed protests as well as consumer goods prices rise and the Pound plummets.

Government forces opened fire on demonstrators in El Geneina when they set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling National Congress Party in the city. Secondary school student El Zubeir Ibrahim Sikiran was killed instantly. Eight others were wounded and dozens were detained.


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