Sudan continues crackdown of online news during protests

Since we blogged about the rumored Internet blackout in Sudan a couple of weeks ago, the Sudanese government continues to crack down on online news sites that report on the ongoing clashes between riot police and University of Khartoum students taking to the streets in protest of the regime. However, a total Internet blackout similar to the one that occurred during the Egyptian protests last year has not yet occurred.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted reports that Sudanese ISPs were blocking a number of news sites run by Sudanese journalists abroad, including Sudanese Online, Hurriyat Sudan and Al Rakoba, though the organization could not independently confirm these reports. However, according to the Sudan Tribune, Hurriyat Sudan confirmed in a press release that their site has been blocked since June 25:

In a press release, Hurriyat said that the site's readers in Sudan had informed them that from around 5:30 pm local time on 25 June, the site was blocked. The National Telecommunications Commission usually uses its special filtering unit to block pornographic websites.

Hurriyat Sudan’s Chief Editor, Elhag Warrag said that blocking its 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.”

According to Ahram Online, the English-language portal for Egypt's largest newspaper, other Sudanese newspapers such as Al-Maydan, Al-Jarida, Ray Al-Shaab and Al-Tayar News "were also all recently suspended by government authorities."

The government has also detained and deported a number of journalists and bloggers, including a local journalist taking photos of demonstrations for AFP and a reporter for Bloomberg. The house of a Sudanese blogger, who contributes regularly to Global Voices Online, was raided, and she was interrogated for her coverage of the protests.

The protests were ignited in mid-June by the extensive austerity measures approved by the President Omar al-Bashir’s government, abolishing subsidies for fuel and sugar. Students at the University of Khartoum continue to clash with riot police, who are attempting to prevent them from demonstrating in the streets. The autocratic leader of Sudan has dismissed any suggestion that these protests will lead to an Arab Spring-like revolution in Sudan. The University of Khartoum, a crucible for anti-regime protests in the past, was partially shutdown on Friday. According to the Sudan Tribune, “Local rights groups say more than 2000 people have been arrested and some were tortured in detention since the start of the protests.”

On Twitter, activists both inside and outside Sudan are using the hashtags #SudanRevolts and #KandakaFriday to gather support for demonstrations. The latter is a reference to a famous queen in the ancient kingdom of Kush, who activists want to invoke in highlighting the struggles of women under al-Bashir’s regime. Activists using Twitter have also been detained and interrogated by the government.