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Egypt October 27, 2010
H.E. Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
Office of the President
Oruba Palace, Sharia Oruba
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: (011.20.2) 244.4319
The Overseas Press Club of American joins the many human rights organizations and guardians of press freedom in deploring the mounting efforts of your government to suppress freedom of the media in Egypt. As the parliamentary elections in November draw nearer, the attacks on the press seem to accelerate so that little room remains for criticism or even open discussion, which are fundamental to democratic elections.
The most notorious case, of course, is that of Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief and founder of the independent Al-Dustour. He was sacked earlier this month — the day after the newspaper was taken over by new owners who had promised not to change the editorial line of the paper. Eissa refused their request not to run an article by Mohammed El Baradai. Two days earlier, a TV program hosted by Eissa was taken off the air. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 65 cases have been filed against Eissa over the years, 30 of which remain outstanding.
In addition to Eissa’s, two other talk shows were taken off the air this month and a well-known sports commentator, Alaa Sadeq, was suspended by the information minister for accusing the interior minister of being unable to maintain order and security during a football match. The information ministry is apparently cracking down on as many as three dozen television satellite stations. The government-owned Nilesat suspended transmissions by 12 stations on October 19, on orders from the Information Ministry. Twenty other stations received warnings. In addition, Nilesat has stopped transmitting some half-dozen stations not on the Ministry of Information list — while some that are on the list, continue to transmit.
Your Excellency’s government told mass SMS distributors, including news services and political parties, that they must get an extremely expensive license. Jail sentences and stiff fines continue to be handed out for the offenses of “insult” and libel; which, in most democracies, are civil –not criminal cases. Just this week, two journalists were sentenced to a year in prison each and fines on the complaint of a film director because of the way they had filmed his wedding party.
Beyond these numerous publicized cases, there is a blanket over the media in Egypt cast by threats and innuendo that seems largely successful in muting criticism. To quote the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, “The government has gone hysterical over limiting freedom of expression.” The network says that the government evidently plans to control all media outlets before the November elections to smooth the way for the presidential elections in 2011.
Your Excellency, the suppression of free of expression will not make the election results credible. Please stop the retreat from democracy.
Co chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Sameh Shoukry
Ambassador of Egypt to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 244.5131
Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
304 East 44th Street
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 949.5999
H.E. Margaret Scobey
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
H.E. Ahmed Nazif
Office of the Prime Minister
Sharia Maglis esh-sha’ab
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: (011.20.2) 366.8048
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
The Middle East Times
Daily News Egypt
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520