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Sudanese journalists go on hunger strike over newspaper suspension

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Al-Tayyar editor in chief Osman Merghani (C) surrounded by a number of journalists pose for a collective picture after starting hunger strike on 1 March 2016 (ST Photo)

March 1, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Journalists at Al-Tayyar daily Tuesday have started a hunger strike to protest against the suspension of the newspaper by the Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Last December, NISS suspended al-Tayyar daily newspaper indefinitely without giving reasons.

At the time, editors at the newspaper told Sudan Tribune the move was likely triggered by a series of Op-eds by the editor in chief Osman Merghani in which he fiercely criticized the Minister of Finance’s announcement of a new round of subsidy cuts on fuel, electricity and wheat.

The newspaper submitted a claim to the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the NISS move and demanding immediate lift of the suspension decision.

In a WhatsUp recording on Monday night, Merghani described the hunger strike move as “historic”, saying it is considered the first of its kind in the history of the Sudanese press.

He expected that the move would draw large attention from the international news agencies and human rights organizations; describing it as a civilized way of protest that would educate the Sudanese how to claim their rights without engaging in a direct confrontation with the authorities.

The journalists went into the hunger strike at 1:00 pm. (local time) Tuesday amid large presence from fellow journalists and politicians including the deputy chairman of the National Umma Party (NUP) Mariam al-Mahdi and member of the Central Committee of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) Suleiman Hamid.

They lined up in the newspaper’s courtyard and handcuffed and gagged themselves to reflect the government crackdown on the press.

Sudan Tribune learnt that some physicians have volunteered to monitor the health status of the strikers and provide intravenous fluids in case of any emergency.

It should be recalled that the newspaper received a written pledge from the police to protect the striking journalists and their belongings throughout the strike period.

Last week, Al-Tayyar launched a campaign to collect one million signatures to demand the lift of ban on the newspaper.

The NISS routinely suspends and confiscates newspapers either to prevent circulation of certain stories or to punish them retroactively on previous issues.

In February of last year, NISS seized entire print runs of 14 newspapers in one day without stating the reasons for its decision.

In June 2012, NISS suspended Al-Tayyar indefinitely and allowed it to resume publication two years later upon a ruling of the Constitutional Court.

(ST)

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