by Rosie Alfatlawi
After days of protests in Sudan, demonstrators are demanding the end to what they see as international media silence.
Events in the African nation mirror those in Iran and Tunisia over the last few weeks, but have received comparably little attention.
“We need to turn world's attention to what is happening in Sudan right now,” tweeted @Wiziadil to a popular hashtag asking what the Sudanese want.
He tagged a number of Arabic and English language news outlets in a move mirrored by several others angered over limited coverage.
Like Iran’s protests, Sudanese demonstrations are essentially economic in origin but protesters have multiple grievances, including seeking greater freedoms and women’s rights. Many are calling for President Omar Bashir’s removal after 29 years in power.
Bread, Freedom and Social Justice. #الشعب_السوداني_يريد— Ezzadean Mohamed (@EzzadeanM) January 14, 2018
Five thousand gathered in the capital Tuesday to take part in the largest protest yet against price rises caused by government austerity measures, Middle East Eye reported.
Particular frustration over coverage was directed towards Doha-based, pan-Arab network Al Jazeera.
“As usual and expected, the complete absence of the @AJArabic Al Jazeera channel which supports the regime, injustice and corruption,” tweeted @dhanood83.
“If there were demonstrations in kindergartens in any country, then they would have created thousands of stories. Curse the silly and base media, and we still hope for honest media,” he continued.
Demonstrations in Sudan against Bashir - Al Jazeera where are you in Sudan?
Sudan found itself trapped in the middle of the Qatar diplomatic crisis in the summer. It refused to boycott ally Qatar, upon which it depends for aid, while hoping to maintain monetary support from the other Gulf states.
Despite Sudanese complaints, Al Jazeera has in fact covered the protests to some extent in Arabic and (less so) English, unlike other English-language international outlets.
The Guardian and the New York Times, among others, have both failed to make any mention of the ongoing anti-government campaign. For comparison, the former produced at least two dozen articles on Iran’s protests.
Losing faith in traditional sources, many on social media pushed instead for support to get their hashtags trending globally.
It was not just international press reporting that Sudanese activists sought, but indeed Arabic-language coverage to raise awareness within the country.
“Sudanese currency is collapsing right in front of our eyes & its not the main news in Sudan right now!!!” tweeted multiple Twitter accounts.
@hemah_91 tweeted to Al Jazeera asking “Why this silence from you on the Sudanese demonstrations?”
“Sudanese people respect you and follow you, so why do you turn your back on them, when they are in need of you.”
Freedom House monitor said in its report for 2017 that Sudanese press is “not free,” giving it a mark of 86 out of a 100 (with 100 being the least free).
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch indicated that in 2016 “security officials restricted media freedom, threatened journalists, and regularly confiscated newspapers.” Just last month, journalist and rights activist Wini Omer was arrested in Khartoum for indecency over wearing trousers.
There were reports on social media of reporters and photographers being among the dozens arrested by authorities on Tuesday. In fact, @mirage_land tweeted, “freedom of expression and the press” is one of the protesters’ demands.
Sudanese are angry over price rises caused by government austerity measures. Opposition activists are demanding the withdrawal of Sudan’s 2018 budget, which removed wheat and electricity subsidies. It also devalued the local currency, responding to IMF recommendations.
Bread prices have doubled as a result, leading activists to name the demonstrations after the staple food. Tear gas and batons have reportedly been used to subdue protests.
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