Home | News    Thursday 29 July 2004

Sudan threatens BBC with legal action over Darfur

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KHARTOUM, July 29 (Reuters) - Sudan’s government called on Thursday for legal action against the British Broadcasting Corporation for spreading what it said were lies about the situation in Darfur, where tens of thousands have been killed.

The council of ministers called in a statement for "political and legal measures" against media organisations including the BBC, which it said had broadcast "lies and maliciousness".

The statement did not say how, when or where it would pursue any action against the BBC and did not name the other media organisations.

A BBC spokeswoman in London said the publicly funded corporation had received no notification of any legal action being planned by Sudan.

"The BBC, as always, stands by its reporting, especially in this very complicated and volatile situation in Darfur," she added. "We’ve been reporting from Darfur and the refugee camps since February and have always attempted to be fair and accurate."

Sudan closed the office of Arabic satellite television Al Jazeera in December, accusing it of biased reporting which Al Jazeera said was related to its coverage of Darfur. An Al Jazeera journalist was sentenced to a month in jail, which was later reduced to two weeks, for spreading false information.

Sudan is under mounting pressure over its remote Darfur region, where the United Nations says fighting has killed 30,000 and displaced one million and the U.S. Congress has said Arab militias are committing genocide in a campaign against local rebels opposed to the government.

The rebels say Khartoum has armed the militias, known as Janjaweed. Khartoum denies the charge. Travel restrictions imposed by Khartoum have made it difficult for journalists to go to the region to investigate rebel claims of ethnic cleansing.

A U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution threatens Khartoum with unspecified sanctions if it does not disarm the militias and prosecute their leaders within 30 days. The Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution this week.

(additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in London)

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