Reporters on the Job

The Wrong Hat? Correspondent Katharine Houreld faced several obstacles in trying to get today's story about an influx of feared janjaweed fighters into the Darfur town of Tine.

When she arrived in Darfur's main city, El Fashir, a government official wrote on her travel permit that she was not allowed to speak to civilians. "But it was in Arabic, so I didn't understand what had been written."

So when she arrived in Tine, where 200 African Union peacekeeping troops are stationed, "the Sudan government representative at the AU camp insisted on accompanying me on all my interviews. He kept me from asking a direct question of the one remaining civilian in Tine, who told me he was fleeing after being assaulted by janjaweed and government soldiers."

When Katherine and a colleague went to take pictures in the central market, "we barely escaped assault by hundreds of janjaweed militia, who mobbed our convoy. Gunfire broke out minutes later."

She also had a permit to take pictures, but not of military installations. The government minder insisted the market was off limits, too. He told me, 'The market is the barracks.' If so, that's an ominous development for Darfur."

When Katherine got back to El Fashir, she was detained. Initially, she was told it was because she was wearing the wrong hat. "They confiscated my hat on the grounds it belonged to a different news organization than the one I was working for." She spent two days trying to prove to Sudan government security agents, "that their Khartoum office, not me, had altered my travel permit to be valid for two weeks instead of a month."

Reuters reports that journalists and aid workers in Darfur are targets of a crackdown. Rules change weekly. "The government is trying to restrict the flow of information," Leslie Kefkow of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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