February 9, 2009 / 12:08 PM / in 10 years

Sudan expels reporter over Darfur, arms: US

(Adds security service reaction)

KHARTOUM, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Sudan has expelled a foreign journalist for reporting on the country's Darfur crisis and arms industry, U.S. diplomats said on Monday.

Canadian-Egyptian reporter Heba Aly, who wrote for U.S. news agency Bloomberg, the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor newspaper and the United Nations news service IRIN, left the country last week.

She told colleagues that officers from Sudan's security service contacted her and ordered her to leave days after she made enquiries about a Khartoum-based arms manufacturer.

Sudan's security service released a statement to Reuters saying Aly had been "practicing activities outside her assignment which harm Sudan National Security".

Action had also been taken against her for "her violation of passport and immigration regulations", it said.

Aly reported on clashes between government forces and rebel fighters in Sudan's Darfur region. Foreign journalists receive permits to visit the remote western region, but have faced restrictions on their movements once they arrive.

She told Reuters her press accreditation ran out in January and she had not been able to renew it, despite repeated applications to Sudan's media regulator, the National Press Council. "I kept on working because I just thought there was a procedural delay in my paperwork," she said.

The U.S. embassy in Khartoum released a statement saying it "condemns this expulsion and continues to deplore infringements by the Government of Sudan upon freedom of the press and expression."

Freedom of the press is guaranteed in Sudan's constitution. But local journalists regularly complain about censorship, the detention of reporters and the seizure of newspaper print-runs.

Media rights groups Reporters Without Borders said it was investigating Aly's case.

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/)

(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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