Canadian journalist recounts days leading to expulsion from Sudan

Heba Aly, for the Pulitzer Center
Heba Aly traveled to Sudan on a Pulitzer Center grant

By Wasil Ali, The Sudan Tribune

Sudanese national security forces expelled a Canadian-Egyptian journalist, Heba Aly, just days after she made an inquiry about domestic arms production.

Aly, a freelance reporter for several news organizations including the Bloomberg News; IRIN, the UN humanitarian news service; Public Radio International; and the Christian Science Monitor worked in Sudan since June 2008.

Speaking with Sudan Tribune, Aly recounted the difficulties she experienced as a foreign journalist and the fears she felt in the days leading up to her expulsion.

In one incident in which she was detained by security forces, Aly said, "I felt alone, helpless. Then I began to understand what Sudanese people go through every day."

While freedom of press is guaranteed under Sudan's constitution, some journalists say they face daily censorship and harassment; Sudanese authorities last November arrested over 70 journalists who demonstrated outside the national parliament to protest against press censorship.

Aly, who entered and exited Sudan several times during her stay, was permitted to make a brief visit in September to parts of the vast war-torn Darfur region, although security forces attempted to destroy all the photos she had taken.

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.

Canada's Foreign Ministry condemned the expulsion of the journalist, calling attention to Sudan's human rights record.

The US embassy in Khartoum also issued a statement deploring the decision by Sudanese authorities and describing as "infringement by the Government of Sudan upon freedom of the press and expression"

Accompanied through the airport by national security officials, the 25-year old journalist departed from Khartoum to Cairo last Monday.

Read the full text of the interview at the Sudan Tribune