Qatari state-funded broadcaster Al Jazeera on Tuesday criticised Sudan’s “arbitrary” decision to withdraw accreditation for three of its journalists covering widespread anti-government protests in the African country.

“Al Jazeera Media Network denounces this arbitrary decision which lacks any credible justification and contradicts basic norms of press freedom,” said the network in a statement.

“The network reaffirms its journalists’ commitment to Al Jazeera’s editorial standards in the coverage of the latest developments in Sudan.”

The accreditation of correspondents Osama Ahmed and Ahmed Alrehaid were withdrawn earlier this week along with that of cameraman Badawi Bashir.

Work permits were also withdrawn for journalists covering Sudan for Al-Arabiya television — which is close to Saudi authorities — and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, according to media reports.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was due in Qatar on Tuesday on his first trip abroad since demonstrations against his rule erupted in December.

Qatar and Sudan are long-term allies. Doha mediated between Khartoum and rebel groups involved in the Darfur conflict that erupted in 2003.

The current anti-government protests, the biggest challenge since Bashir swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup, have now spread from Khartoum to other major cities.

Officials say 26 people have died so far in the protests. Rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at more than 40.

Bashir’s regime has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and he has been charged by The Hague-based International Criminal Court for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.