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Canadian-Egyptian journalist Heba Aly expelled from country

(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a CJFE letter to the Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan to Canada, Faiza Hassan Taha:

His Excellency Faiza Hassan Taha
Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan to Canada
354 Stewart Street
Ottawa, Canada
K1N 6K8

February 11, 2009

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE condemns the decision of Sudanese officials to expel Canadian-Egyptian journalist Heba Aly from Sudan last week. Aly, who has worked for the Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, U.S. news agency Bloomberg and the United Nations news service IRIN, was forced to leave the country after she made an inquiry about domestic arms production.

According to a statement released by Sudan's security service to Reuters, Aly had been "practising activities outside her assignment which harm Sudan's National Security". The announcement also said that she had been expelled for violating immigration regulations.

Aly's press accreditation expired in January 2009 but she was unable to renew it, despite continued applications to Sudan's media regulator, the National Press Council. Aly decided to stay in Sudan waiting for her application to be processed while continuing to pursue a story about Sudan's arms-manufacturing industry. This investigation prompted agents from Sudan's national security agency to call her in for a hastily convened meeting where she was then ordered to leave the country.

It is not the first time Aly has been questioned by Sudanese officials for her reporting. Last December, when she left Khartoum to spend Christmas with her family in Canada, she was detained for two hours in the airport. Officials searched her laptop, notebooks and deleted all the pictures from her camera.

CJFE calls on Sudanese authorities to protect freedom of expression, a fundamental right in a democratic society. We urge your government to ensure that foreign journalists working in the country and all local reporters are able to continue their work without obstruction.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber

CC: The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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