Journalists join Sudan protests, announce three-day strike

A network of Sudanese journalists went on strike on Thursday in the wake of deadly protests sparked by a hike in bread prices, while opposition groups called for further rallies.

Angry crowds have taken to the streets in the capital Khartoum and several other cities since Dec. 19, leading to a crackdown in which a number of protesters have been killed.

“We declare a three-day strike from Dec. 27 to protest against the violence unleashed by the government against demonstrators,” said the Sudanese Journalists’ Network which advocates free speech.

Sudanese authorities say eight protesters have been killed in clashes, but Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

The Popular Congress Party, which is part of President Omar Bashir’s government, says that 17 people have been killed and 88 wounded in clashes.

Journalists in Sudan frequently complain of harassment from the authorities, and the African country has a dire rating on international press freedom rankings.

Entire print runs of newspapers are often confiscated over articles deemed offensive by the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which is spearheading the current crackdown on protesters.

Police and security officers remained deployed in several parts of the Sudanese capital on Wednesday, but for the first day in a week no new demonstrations were reported.

Activists and opposition groups have called on people to take to the streets again over the next few days. “We urge the Sudanese people to continue their demonstrations until success is achieved by overthrowing the regime,” the Sudanese Communist Party said in a statement.

Egypt minister visits

Egypt’s foreign minister and intelligence chief visited Khartoum on Thursday for talks with Sudanese government officials in the midst of the ongoing deadly protests.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Gen. Abbas Kamel went into meetings with their Sudanese counterparts soon after arriving, officials said, adding the two were later expected to meet Bashir.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said earlier that the talks were part of “directives by the leaders of both countries to develop bilateral relations.”

The visit follows more than a week of demonstrations in Sudan that evolved into deadly clashes between riot police and protesters angered by increased bread prices.

Cairo and Khartoum have recently sought to iron out their differences in a bid to improve relations roiled by a longstanding border dispute and an impasse in talks over Ethiopia’s Nile dam.

In October Sudan lifted a ban on agricultural imports from Egypt during a visit to Khartoum by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Several members of the party have been arrested by security agents since the protests started.

“We also call on all opposition parties to unite and work together to coordinate this movement.”

Protests initially started in towns and villages and later spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (from about 2 two 6 US cents).

Demonstrators have also been marching against Sudan’s dire economic situation and some have called for the president to resign.

After the protests erupted Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 coup, vowed to “take real reforms” to tackle the country’s financial difficulties.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign currency crisis and soaring inflation, despite the lifting of an economic embargo by Washington in October 2017.

Inflation is running at 70 percent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value, while shortages of bread and fuel have regularly hit several cities.

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