KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudanese authorities have banned three more newspapers Tuesday, seizing all copies ahead of distribution as a general strike against fuel subsidy cuts and price hikes continued for the third day.
The independent dailies banned include the Al-Ayam, Sudan's oldest newspaper, as well as Al-Tayar and Al-Youm al-Tali. The move brings to four the number of newspapers banned since Monday, when authorities shuttered the daily Al-Jareeda. The privately-owned Omdurman TV network was also closed Monday.
Al-Tayar's editor in chief, Osman Mirghani, said that security agents came to the daily's printing press at the break of dawn to collect all issues before they were distributed.
The authorities offered no explanation for the raid but Mirghani told The Associated Press "we suspect our coverage of the civil disobedience was the reason."
Dozens of activists and members of opposition parties were arrested Monday — the second day of the three-day campaign — over allegations they engineered the call for the strike, in a day that saw the streets and classrooms of the capital Khartoum largely deserted
On the third day of the campaign, traffic remained slow on the streets of Khartoum and a large number of shops were closed. School students registered their attendance at classes then went right back home, according to an AP cameraman.
"Street traffic is less than half its normal rate today," he said.
Six female activists continued their hunger strike and sit-in for the third consecutive day at the headquarters of National Umma Party (NUP) in Omdurman, one of the activists, Amal Habbani, told the AP.
"We have one request: the removal of the government of Omar al-Bashir", she said. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been in power since 1989.
The hunger strike will continue till Tuesday evening when the declared three-day disobedience campaign is meant to come to an end, said Habbani. She noted a "strong security presence" around the party's premises since the start of the sit-in, adding that the six activists were not members of the Umma party but chose the location "because it is considered as a safe place".
The Umma party of former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, issued a statement saying it "stands with the decisions of the Sudanese people".
The government's austerity measures spiked fuel prices by around 30% and also targeted electricity consumption. This led to a sharp rise in the cost of goods, transport and medicines.
The Sudanese pound has lost more than 60 percent of its value against the dollar over the past six months.
The government justifies the subsidy cuts as a crucial step for economic reforms, while the opposition accuses President Omar Bashir's government of failure.
In an interview published Tuesday by the Emirati daily al-Khaleej, Bashir said the general strike had "failed by one million percent".