Group calls on Sudan to stop seizing papers amid protests

CAIRO — The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called on Sudan to stop its crackdown on local newspapers reporting on protests over bread price hikes.

Sudanese authorities confiscated all copies of six dailies, including the privately owned Al-Tayar, Al-Moustagilla, al-Qarar, Al-Saiha, al-Midan of the Socialist Party and Akhbar al-Watan of the opposition National Congress Party, the New York-based CPJ said in a statement.

The watchdog urged Sudan's authorities to allow journalists to report freely.

"Sudanese authorities should halt their desperate attempts to silence critical coverage of widely reported events," CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "We call on authorities to allow the media to do its job informing the public without any fear of reprisal."

Hanadi Al Siddig, the editor of Akhbar al-Watan, said on Facebook that the entire Sunday edition of her daily was also confiscated.

CPJ said Sudan's security service in recent years has confiscated entire print runs when a paper publishes content of which it disapproves. It said the confiscations amount to censorship and impose significant financial losses on media companies.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in several Sudanese cities in recent days to protest against bread prices hikes after the government's decision to devaluate the local currency.

An activist and political researcher, Abdel Moneim Idriss, said the protests were led by school and university students. He told The Associated Press that the protests started after the parliament approved the 2018 budget last week, which included the devaluation. The Sudanese pound now trades at 18 to the dollar, down from six.

Idriss said the government also raised the electricity tariff for the industrial, agricultural and trade sectors. It has also stopped importing wheat, which has increased the price of bread, he said.

He said a student was killed and at least five others were wounded in a protest in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur State.

The English-language website Sudan Tribune reported the death on Sunday and quoted Gov. Fadl Almula as saying an investigation is underway.

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