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Sudan journalists rally over banned newspaper

AFP , Tuesday 17 Jul 2012
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About 150 journalists and activists rallied in Sudan on Tuesday demanding to know why an independent daily newspaper has been shut by authorities for more than one month.

Al-Tayar has been closed 36 days, since just before the start of an unprecedented series of anti-regime protests sparked by high inflation. Western governments and rights groups have raised concerns over the government's clampdown on demonstrators and journalists. "We want the authorities to tell us, first, why the newspaper was stopped, and when it's going to be back," chief editor Osman Mirghani told AFP after the demonstration.

Mirghani says he met with government officials but "nobody can explain what is the problem." It is Al-Tayar's second suspension this year. Authorities earlier ordered it to stop publishing for about three weeks after it ran an article about the family of President Omar al-Bashir.

Even before the June 16 outbreak of scattered demonstrations against high prices, journalists and press freedom advocates said there had been a worsening government attack against critical voices, with journalists banned from writing, newspapers confiscated after printing, and some including Al-Tayar ordered to suspend publication.

"Everybody can write what he wants to write",  Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, a senior official of the ruling National Congress Party, said in a bid to defend freedom of expression in Sudan. The shut-down of Al-Tayar has cost the newspaper about 500,000 Sudanese pounds ($100,000) because expenses and salaries are still being paid but there is no revenue, Mirghani said.

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