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article imageSudanese government blocking newspaper over protests coverage

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By Andrew Moran     Jun 29, 2012 in World
Khartoum - Sudan's National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has reportedly blocked access to Hurriyat's online newspaper. The outage has been ongoing since Jun. 25 amid the continuing coverage of the protests in Khartoum and elsewhere.
For the past two weeks, Sudanese security authorities have been blocking media coverage, harassing activists and journalists and even detaining students protesting the government’s latest economic policies, which include austerity measures. Government forces have reportedly been shooting teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to stifle the tide of activists.
This week, Sudan deported Egyptian Bloomberg News reporter Salma al-Wardany and later rearrested Sudanese blogger Maha El-Sanusi for three hours, according to a watchdog group based in Zambia.
Now the Sudanese government is taking measures to restrict access to one local newspaper, the Hurriyat Sudan, an online Arabic newspaper. Local outlets are reporting that the NTC, which uses its functions to obstruct pornographic websites, has been blocking its publication since Jun. 25 because of its coverage of the austerity protests in towns like Khartoum.
Hurriyat issued a press release (via Google translate) and said that its readers had notified them that the website was down starting from around 5:30 p.m. local time Monday. The newspaper’s Chief Editor noted the shutting down of the Hurriyat is to prohibit news that sheds the government in a negative light.
“Blocking Hurriyat’s website is part of a systematic attempt by the Sudanese regime to stop news about anti-government demonstrations reaching the Sudanese people and the world at large,” said Elhag Warrag.
The editor urged the news outlet’s readers to access its news coverage through its Facebook page and to download special software from the Ultrasurf website.
Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has alleged in the past that websites are conspiring with opposition parties and the United States to initiate a campaign that would distort the nation’s image.
A massive protest is scheduled to be held Friday where groups of demonstrators are demanding 15 things, including national elections every two years, the replacement of the present incumbent NCP government and the elimination of laws restricting freedom.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced his government’s austerity plan that would raise taxes and customs duty on luxury products and gradually end fuel subsidies. The proposal is an attempt to generate revenue and lower the $2.4 billion budget deficit, which has increased substantially since the loss of oil revenue and secession of South Sudan last year.
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