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Sudan shuts Islamist paper in media crackdown

By on January 3, 2012

Sudan shut the newspaper of the country’s largest Islamist opposition party on Monday, the latest step in a growing crackdown on independent media in the large African country.

Security forces raided offices belonging to the daily al-Rai al-Shaab newspaper run by the Popular Congress Party of Hassan al-Turabi. They told staff that publication would be halted and the paper’s assets confiscated, the party said.

“They haven’t given us any reason for the decision. They are now occupying the newspaper’s building,” said party spokesman Naji Dahab. “We think it’s because the government cannot handle press freedom.”

Journalists in Sudan complain of increasing pressure and harassment by security forces if they criticise the government or cover sensitive issues such as Sudan’s severe economic crisis since the south split to become an independent state last July.

On several occasions in recent months, security forces have confiscated entire editions of independent newspapers, editors say.

Al-Rai al-Shaab, a regular critic the government, had only resumed publication in October after a previous government-ordered shutdown lasting several months.

The Sudanese Media Center (SMC), a state-linked news website, said the paper had been closed because it had violated professional and ethical standards.

The SMC added that security services were calling on national media not to violate national security by exploiting Sudan’s press freedom.

In July, two female journalists were both sentenced to one month in prison for writing about an alleged rape case.

One day before the independence of South Sudan in July, Khartoum suspended six newspapers because southerners were among their publishers or owners.

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