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Authorities censor Sudan's largest newspaper

September 29, 2013
Associated Press

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudanese authorities on Sunday forced the country's largest daily to stop printing after several dailies came under pressure to depict demonstrators in weeklong protests against longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir as "saboteurs."

The latest blow to freedom of the press in the authoritarian state comes as Sudan's experiences its largest street demonstrations since al-Bashir took power 24 years ago. Protests started after the government lifted food and fuel subsidies, sparking anger in a country where nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line.

Public discontent had been growing over failed economic and political policies that led South Sudan to break off and became an independent state in 2011, taking Sudan's main oil-producing territory with it. Critics also blamed al-Bashir for draining the country's coffers by funding rebel movements in rival countries.

The crackdown on thousands of protesters has been violent, leaving at least 50 protesters dead according to international rights groups. Doctors and activists put the death toll higher, telling The Associated Press that it is more than 100. The government has acknowledged some 33 killed, including policemen.

Despite its heavy-handed crackdown, the government sought to appease a frustrated public on Sunday, announcing cash compensation to make up for the higher prices and raising minimum wage.

The official SUNA news agency quoted Khartoum governor Abdel-Rahman al-Khidri as saying that the government will start distributing cash in the capital.

The same agency quoted the deputy finance minister as saying the salary increases were planned to start in mid-October.

However, worried of lingering protests, the Education Ministry said on Sunday that schools will remain closed until Oct. 20. Schools were closed since Wednesday after high school students led protests in different districts in the capital chanting against al-Bashir.

The government also closed the offices of Gulf-based satellite networks Al-Arabiya and Sky News Arabia. Several newspapers were ordered to stop publication while others stopped voluntarily to avoid government pressures.

Al-Intibah's website said authorities had ordered the halt indefinitely, but did not elaborate. The paper, the country's largest in terms of circulation, is owned and run by an uncle of al-Bashir, al-Tayab Mustafa. It was not immediately possible to reach Mustafa.

Diaa Eddin Belal, Editor-in-Chief of al-Sudani paper, told The Associated Press that editions of his paper were confiscated and they were ordered to stop printing three times since Wednesday. Back to work on Sunday, Belal said that in one incident on Friday the papers had been on their way to distribution centers when he received a phone call from police telling him that there would be no papers that day.

"The government feels that it is own existence is endangered and the press is playing a role in influencing public opinion ... they want papers to turn into official gazettes that reflect only (the government's) point of view with no criticism or negative feedback," he said.

 
 

 

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