Top Sudanese officials on Monday promised journalists access to the war-ravaged states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile but said some media restrictions are necessary for the country’s security.
Access for reporters, diplomats and aid workers has been tightly controlled since a rebellion by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) began in South Kordofan in June last year, followed by Blue Nile in September.
In the country’s far-west Darfur region, where violence continues nine years after rebels took up arms, journalists require special permits to visit but these are rarely issued.
“We are keen to organize the trip for you to South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur,” Vice President Al-Haj Adam Youssef said at a meeting with foreign journalists.
The reporters, who need permission for travel outside the capital Khartoum, complained of a lack of access and also said they faced difficulties covering anti-regime protests that began in mid-June.
Journalists, including foreigners, were among those detained during the Arab Spring-style protests. Armed national security agents raided the AFP office, forcing a correspondent to delete photos of a demonstration.
“I am committed to give you full access to get information about any issue,” Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told the same meeting.
“We are ready to facilitate your access to Blue Nile and South Kordofan.”
The vice-president said journalists are not allowed to photograph “illegal” demonstrations.
He said the media is a “weapon” and the government cannot allow it to serve the interests of those who would destroy the state.
“Any state has rules for its security,” Youssef said.
Western governments and rights groups have raised concerns over the government’s clampdown on demonstrators and journalists.
The U.N. warned for months about a worsening humanitarian situation in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile war zone, but Khartoum cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.
Last week, however, Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN, African Union and Arab League to allow for humanitarian access throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- including in rebel-held areas.
The SPLM-N rebels signed a similar memorandum.
The U.N. expressed hope that the aid deal will lead to much wider access.