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Sudan gov’t seizes 3 newspapers for covering protests

Sudanese security agents seized the entire print-runs of three newspapers on Thursday after they covered food price protests in Khartoum and other towns, their editors said.

Opposition groups have organised repeated demonstrations since bread prices jumped in early January when a government decision to leave wheat imports to the private sector triggered a sharp rise in the cost of flour.

Several newspapers have criticised the government’s decision, and on Thursday agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated the print-runs of Al-Tayar, Al-Midan and Al-Jadida newspapers.

“The agents of NISS confiscated all copies of our newspaper today without giving any reason,” Al-Jadida editor Ashraf Abdelaziz told AFP.

Media in Sudan are frequently targeted for their reporting. The country regularly ranks near the bottom of international press freedom rankings.

Several senior leaders of opposition groups have been arrested by NISS agents since January in a bid to prevent the food price protests from spreading.

Several journalists were arrested while covering protests in Khartoum last month. Most have since been released.

“There is a perception among senior government officials that we are communists, which is not true,” said Abdelaziz when asked why his newspaper had become a repeated target of NISS.

“We have also refused NISS orders asking us not to cover the protests.”

Anti-riot police and NISS agents have so far managed to swiftly break up the protests, which have seen small groups of demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans in Khartoum and other towns.

Sudan witnessed similar sporadic protests in late 2016 after a government decision to cut fuel subsidies.

The authorities cracked down on those protests in an attempt to prevent a repeat of deadly unrest that followed a similar round of subsidy cuts in 2013.

Human rights groups say dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 protests, drawing international condemnation.

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