April 6, 2011 / 3:05 PM / in 7 years

Sudan confiscates opposition newspaper-editor

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s security forces confiscated copies of an opposition newspaper on Wednesday, the latest crackdown on press freedom in Africa’s largest country ahead of the looming split of its oil-producing south.

Sudan’s constitution guarantees press freedom but several journalists have been detained without charge in recent months and papers are often subject to direct censorship.

“They confiscated all the copies of the paper at the printing press after we printed,” Faiz al-Silaik, deputy editor-in-chief of daily Ajras al-Huriya, told Reuters.

Al-Silaik, whose newspaper is linked to the south’s dominant SPLM party, said the move may have been sparked by its coverage on Wednesday of an attack in Sudan’s east, blamed by Khartoum on Israel, and long-delayed May elections in South Kordofan state.

Elections in the state, a region containing much of north Sudan’s future oil production but where the SPLM has strong support, has provoked security fears for the north’s dominant National Congress Party.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti on Wednesday accused Israel of carrying out an attack on Tuesday near Port Sudan that killed two people and said Khartoum reserved the right to react to the aggression. Israel declined to comment on the strike.

Sudan’s security forces were not immediately available to comment on the confiscation of the newspapers, a move which inflicts substantial financial damage on a publication as it cannot sell the copies it has paid to print.

The country’s constant hounding of the press has encouraged an atmosphere of self-censorship over the years and provoked criticism from media watchdogs.

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