Sudan seizes newspapers after bread price rise criticism

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Sudanese security agents on Sunday seized all copies of six newspapers after they criticized the government over soaring bread prices that have almost doubled this week, editors said.

Discontent has been simmering over the past few days as bread prices jumped on the back of a sharp rise in the cost of flour after a government decision to shift importing of wheat to private sector companies.

Several newspapers have criticized the decision concerning wheat imports, while the country’s opposition groups called for nationwide demonstrations against the price rise.

On Sunday, members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) confiscated entire print runs of Al-Tayar, Al-Mustagilla, Al-Karar, Al-Midan, Al-Assayha and Akhbar Al-Watan newspapers.

Akhbar al-Watan and Al-Midan are mouthpieces of opposition Sudanese Congress Party and the Communist Party, while the other four newspapers are independent journals that often report criticism of the government.

“No reason was given for confiscating copies of our newspaper but I think it was due to our transparent coverage of the food price rise,” said Hanadi Al-Sidiq, editor of Akhbar Al-Watan.

Editors of other newspapers also confirmed to AFP that NISS agents had confiscated the entire print runs of their Sunday editions.

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

An opposition group said its members were also targeted after the call for nationwide demonstrations against the price rise.

Two senior leaders of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party have been detained by NISS agents, the party said in a statement.

On Saturday, police fired tear gas at groups of students protesting the price rise in the central Sudanese town of Sennar, witnesses told AFP.

Sudan witnessed 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.

Dozens of people were killed in 2013 protests when security forces crushed large street demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.