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NOT JUST A "LAND OF MASSACRES", RSF FINDS

The image of Sudan as home to the 21st century's first genocide and closed off to the world is misleading, a Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) fact-finding mission found.

Over five days in March, RSF learned that rather than being monolithic and uncritical, Sudan's civil society and press are active and diverse. In Khartoum, the press reflects the voices of Sudanese human rights activists, academics and other civil society actors, who find it difficult to make themselves heard outside the country. Even in Darfur, the RSF delegation found a real awareness of the unfolding crisis and the challenges ahead.

But national and foreign media face real obstacles in covering the "forgotten actors" and getting to the root causes of the crisis. Besides the large number of armed factions, the absence of a "front line", the hostile terrain and not being able to distinguish between combatants and civilians, the government has erected a "bureaucratic fence" - discretionary visas, special travel permits and blacklists - to regulate and influence the press. So international stories tend to only focus on the atrocities and suffering under a "hostile" government.

RSF recommends that the Sudanese government take all necessary measures to open up the country to the foreign press; that international organisations take account of local realities and support the active civil society; and that the international media should not neglect the "forgotten actors", so they portray Sudan in all its diversity.

Download RSF's report "Darfur: An investigation into a tragedy's forgotten actors":
http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/RSF_Sudan_ENG.pdf
Visit the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) for more on the efforts of NGOs in the region to draw attention to Darfur: http://www.cihrs.org/Default_en.aspx

(24 April 2007)

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