Al Jazeera says Sudan withdraws journalists' work permits

CAIRO — Sudanese authorities have cracked down on Arabic-language foreign media working inside the country, news channels said, as major protests against President Omar al-Bashir enter their second month.

Qatari satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera said that its correspondents in Sudan had their work permits withdrawn by security officials, while its Saudi competitor Al Arabiya said its correspondent had his permit revoked as well.

Both channels have been reporting on the unrest despite a media blackout by authorities, who firmly control the press. The tumult began in earnest on Dec. 19 over skyrocketing prices and a failing economy, but has led to calls for the autocratic ruler's removal.

In a statement late Monday on the Arabic-language Facebook page of its Sudanese channel, Al Jazeera said its Khartoum office was told the decision was made after a review of the work of Osama Ahmed and Ahmed Alrehaid, as well as cameraman Badawi Bashir.

It later denounced the move in a statement from its main press office, calling the decision "arbitrary" and saying it "lacks any credible justification and contradicts the basic norms of press freedom."

"Al Jazeera Media Network expresses its demand to the Sudanese authorities to reinstate the accreditation of our colleagues at the earliest to enable them to carry out their duties safely and without intimidation, as we believe that Journalism is not a Crime," it said, adding that its work in Sudan would continue.

The channel says that the men had previously had their permits approved for 2019 by the government Press Council.

Al Arabiya announced its sanctioning in a tweet also on Monday, saying authorities had stopped correspondent Saad Eddin Hassan from working and withdrawn his permit.

Both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have broadcast footage from the protests, which have arisen in cities across the country and especially in and around the capital Khartoum, sometimes live.

Al Jazeera in particular is feared by autocrats in the region for the role it played in the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, when it covered protests and pro-democracy movements up close, introducing notions of freedom of speech and assembly to Arab-speaking publics long cowed by authoritarian rulers.

It is now banned, with varying degrees of success, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other areas.

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