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Reporters on the Job

Darfur Travel Rules: Today's story about women seeking a role in Sudanese peace efforts – and government decisionmaking – was made possible by the restrictions placed on journalists.

Correspondent Rob Crilly was cooling his heels in Khartoum waiting to get a travel permit to leave Sudan's capital city. "To travel outside Khartoum required five different offices to sign off. But the key one is the national security department. It turns out that no one was given a permit to travel alone," he says.

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For Rob, the only way to get a look at what was happening in the conflicted region of Darfur was to join the press corps following Jan Egeland, the UN's top humanitarian official, on his visit to Sudan. But Mr. Egeland didn't fare much better.

"Of the six locations in Darfur he wanted to visit, the government told him that for security reasons he could only visit two," notes Rob. And two journalists working for US publications – Time magazine and Bloomberg News – were ordered off the plane. "Americans are only allowed to travel a maximum of 20 kilometers from the capital. We were told the restriction was introduced in response to US restrictions on the travel of Sudanese diplomats in the US," says Rob.

When Egeland arrived in the Darfur town of El Geneina, his own UN security team told him that the camps outside of the city for displaced people were too dangerous for him to enter.

"The camps are full of [pro-government Arab] militias. In West Darfur, the janjaweed go in at night to visit family members and get food. And Chadian rebel groups are also using the camps to recruit. The UN says there are just too many guns in the camps for UN officials to safely enter. It's causing real problems for the UN and aid agencies trying to provide humanitarian relief," he says.

David Clark Scott
World editor


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