Sudan paper seized despite Bashir 'freedom' call: editor

KHARTOUM, Feb 26, 2014 (AFP) - Sudanese security agents on Wednesday confiscated the weekly press run of an economic newspaper edited by a prominent government critic, the editor told AFP.

Khalid Tigani, chief editor of Elaff weekly, said the move follows recent seizures of other publications despite President Omar al-Bashir's January appeal for a political and economic "renaissance" in the country ravaged by armed insurrection, poverty and political turmoil.

"I think this is very strange," Tigani said after the National Intelligence and Security Service took all 15,000 copies of his newspaper.

They gave no reason for the seizure, and Tigani said it does not appear to be linked to any particular articles.

"They just want to say that 'We are here'," he said.

The intelligence service is "a political body" and the newspaper seizures raise questions about the government's commitment to a national dialogue which Bashir announced in late January, Tigani said.

Bashir did not reveal detailed initiatives but said the renaissance must address four areas: peace, political freedom, poverty reduction and national identity in the ethnically diverse nation.

"The freedom of people has to be respected," Bashir said.

Negotiations later began with one of the country's rebel groups and the government has also held talks with some opposition parties.

"In the meantime they are not ready to give the people a chance to say their views about the issues and problems," said Tigani, a founder along with Islamist scholars of the National Movement for Change, which is reaching out to a range of groups including secularists and leftists.

The movement is a forum for dialogue about building an inclusive democracy in place of the current centrally controlled system which they say has failed outlying regions.

Tigani said he does not think the confiscation of Elaff was directed against him for his political stand, "because they are targeting other newspapers".

Sudan ranks near the bottom of international indexes of corruption, human development and press freedom.