KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has ordered the closure of Omdurman, a popular private television channel, its owner said on Sunday, amid a government crackdown on dissent against new austerity measures. One of a handful of independent television channels, Omdurman was notified on Sunday that it would have to cease broadcasting because it did not have a proper permit, the channel's owner Hussein Khogali told Reuters. "This is not true because we've worked legally non-stop for the past six years," Khogali said. The channel has recently included coverage critical of government austerity measures. "The purpose of pulling the channel off the air is to silence dissent and we will take all legal steps possible to protect our rights," he said. Sudan's economy has struggled since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking with it three quarters of the country's oil output, a key source of foreign currency and government revenue. In a bid to cut government spending, Sudan announced a raft of austerity measures earlier this month that included reducing fuel and electricity subsidies as well as imposing restrictions on some imports. [nL8N1D4AFW] Khartoum and other cities have since seen a number of small but rare protest demonstrations amid rising prices and a black market rate for dollars that last week reached an unprecedented 18 pounds to the dollar, significantly weaker than the official rate of 6.4 the government has kept in place since August 2015. Last week security forces arrested four prominent opposition figures including veteran politician Sadiq Youssef, a leader of the largest political coalition opposed to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. [nL4N1DO499] On Sunday opposition parties and activists called for a strike in Khartoum to protest against the recent economic decisions, but participation remained low. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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