30 Sudanese journalists launch country’s biggest ever hunger strike

More than 30 Sudanese journalists have launched a hunger strike to protest against the forced closure of their newspaper by the government.

In the biggest organised strike of its kind in the country, the El Tayar reporters were greeted by hundreds of supporters at the newspaper’s offices in Khartoum on Tuesday.

Wearing chains and linking hands, the journalists assembled in front of the building to announce their plans before retreating inside the building to begin their sit-in.

“We want to draw attention to the difficulties faced by journalists and the restrictions on the freedom of press in the country in general,” said Khalid Fathi, the newspaper’s managing editor.

Shama’il Alnour, a reporter and columnist at El Tayar, said the ban marks a significant shift in the fight for freedom of expression in Sudan. “This is the first ever hunger strike by journalists in the history of Sudanese press, and the first to happen outside a prison.”


She said the protest wasn’t just about lifting the ban on the newspaper. “Of course we have the immediate goal of having the suspension lifted. But in general we are using El Tayar’s case as an example while we defend freedom of expression.”

El Tayar’s editor-in-chief, Osman Marghani, is currently facing the death penalty over accusations he used the publication to “incite an Arab spring” in the country.

Speaking from his home where he is awaiting news on his sentence, he said he hopes the hunger strike will accomplish more than just raising awareness of El Tayar’s suspension at the hands of national security agents.

“The best outcome we anticipate from this [strike] is that the culture of protest, peaceful protest that is, spreads among Sudanese people,” he said.

Sudanese journalists have worked in an increasingly oppressive environment since president Omar al-Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. The country currently ranks 174 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

El Tayar was first suspended by national intelligence forces in 2012, but won an appeal against the ban in Sudan’s constitutional court in 2014.

But the win has done little to stop discrimination by the authorities: in 2015, the entire print run of the newspaper was confiscated at the printing presses on 15 occasions, leading to large financial losses.

Musa Hamid, a journalist who joined the crowd of supporters, said he was inspired by what the journalists were attempting. “This movement must be supported and is bound to achieve something positive,” he said.

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