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Egypt February 21, 2006
H.E. Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
Office of the President
Oruba Palace, Sharia Oruba
Arab Republic of Egypt
The members of the Overseas Press Club of America wish to express their alarm and dismay at the treatment of journalists covering the recent elections and to protest the atmosphere created within your country against journalists and publications speaking in opposition to your party’s rule.
We cite ten episodes of deliberate harassment and intimidation directed at men and women attempting to perform journalistic duties whose free pursuit is guaranteed in every civilized country of the world:
1. State security agents prevented Al-Jazeera reporter, Leena El-Ghadban, and her television crew from videotaping inside a polling station in Bandar-Domyat, north of Cairo.
2. State security agents prevented Al-Jazeera reporter, Mohamed Yousef, and his television crew from videotaping inside a polling station in Al-A’arish, northeast of Cairo.
3. Unidentified security agents harassed Al-Jazeera reporter, Sameer Omar, and his crew — and threatened to throw nitric acid on them in El Shjarqihya province, east of Cairo.
4. Police detained Al-Masry Al-Youm, and photographer, Mohamed Ma’arouf, for three hours in Domyat province.
5. Government officials fired tear gas and detained Al-Masry Al-Youm, and photographer, Mohamed El-Sa’eed in a government building in Balteem, north of Cairo.
6. Members of the municipal council attacked and beat the photographer, Ahmed El-Masry, in El-Mansoura, near Cairo.
7. Unknown persons attempted to attack with tear gas the photographer, Hossam Fadl, and flattened the tires of his car while he filmed election activities in El?Mansoura.
8. Unknown persons doused petrol on the photographer, Ahmed Shaker, and threatened to set him on fire if he did not leave El-Sharqiya province.
9. Villagers in Shatoura attacked and severely beat Al-Masry Al-Youm, the journalists, Abdel A’al Tala’at, Gamal Osman, Abdel Fattah Abbas, and their driver; the villagers apparently believed the journalists were members of your intelligence service.
10. An unknown person hit the Associated Press photographer, Amre Nabil, with a stone in El-Sharqiya province; he was hospitalized with eye injuries.
The specter of intimidation and violence in these events forms only one part of the atmosphere of anti-democratic actions in your republic during and following the elections. Observers saw blatant bias and misuse of public funds for state-owned or supported newspapers and television stations in support of your ruling party, staining the results of the election with the mark of unfairness and corruption.
The arrest and detention of Ahmed Mamoud Abdallah is a final smear upon the reputation of your great country, which was long held up to the world as a seat of enlightenment and learning. On December 5, security agents from Amn-El-Dawla searched Ahmed Mamoud Abdallah’s house and confiscated books, notes and computer disks. As an author of many books and director of the Centre for Islamic Enlightenment (where he was arrested), he symbolizes the thirst within Egypt for a freer, more enlightened view of Islam and the politics of the nation-state. He is a member of the Union of Egyptian Journalists and editor of Balady Net, a news Web site, which was shut down, as was another site whose editor, Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman, was arrested.
Mr. President, your country must find its own way to peace and prosperity. You receive the second largest amount of foreign and security assistance in the world from the United States while insisting that Egypt is a democracy. Yet, you allow, foster, or condone such episodes of anti-democratic behaviour. More than fifty journalists covering the elections reported harassment and intimidation while performing their duties. This is inconsistent with your government’s desire for respect from the world of democratic nations.
We respectfully urge you to order the release of Mr. Mamoud Adballah (Mr. Nabil Seliman has been freed) and to seek explanations from security agencies, municipal councils and the public. We exhort you to publicly denounce these activities as undemocratic and in violation of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19.
We respectfully request the honor of your reply.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Atef Mohamed Ebeid
Office of the Prime Minister
Sharia Maglis esh-sha’ab
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: (011.20.2) 355-8048
Ambassador of Egypt to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 244-4319/ 5131
Ambassador Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
304 East 44th Street
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 949-5999
Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Kamal El Din Salah Street
Garden City, Cairo
Fax: (011.20.2) 797-3200