WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday eased restrictions on the export of some personal telecommunications devices to Sudan such as smartphones and computers, to help give ordinary Sudanese greater access to social networking and the Internet.
The licensing changes announced by the U.S. Treasury will cover personal devices such as computers, mobile phones, radios and digital cameras, and related software and services, U.S. officials said.
“These changes are consistent with our commitment to promote freedom of expression through access to communications tools,” U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth told reporters. “These changes also support our aim to help Sudanese citizens integrate in the global digital community.”
The revised rules will be effective Feb. 18, Booth said.
The United States has expressed concern abut continuing human rights violations by the Khartoum government, violence in the western Darfur region and a crackdown on the media before April elections.
Sudan is struggling with a raft of U.N. and bilateral sanctions, including from the United States. Its ruling National Congress party last year chose President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court, as its candidate for the presidential vote.
Booth said the United States had “great concern” with reports that Sudanese national security agencies seized the print runs of 12 to 14 newspapers on Monday.
“This is not a new practice on their part but it highlights all the more the importance of this licensing change because it does facilitate the ability of Sudanese to communicate with each other and with the outside world,” Booth added.
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Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish