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OPC Contends Modifications to Egypt’s Emergency Law Retain Potential for Abuse
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 America joins other organizations concerned with freedom of expression and human rights in protesting recent modifications of the emergency law that, while lifting the enforcement of certain measures, nevertheless retains a host of potential abuses of authority — including censorship of newspaper and other mass media, monitoring of personal communications and detention of individuals, particularly editors and reporters, indefinitely and without charges being brought.
We are aware that on May 11 the government announced that it would no longer exercise the emergency laws to embark on campaigns of censorship and confiscation of media and publications, monitoring of all forms of communications, and closing broadcasters and publishers. And still, these activities designed to monitor, control and disrupt the media continue, all but unabated, under other provisions of the Egyptian press law and penal code.
The modifications are said to leave the law in place only in cases of subversion, terrorism and drug abuse. The vague definition of such acts leaves to police and judicial authorities broad latitude in the enforcement and application of the law that is all too often abused. Notwithstanding, your remarks to American journalists, including television host, Charlie Rose, that these laws are only to be invoked during proclamations of emergency; in fact, authorities continue to use the emergency law to detain dissidents, including journalists and respected bloggers.
Some ten thousand individuals are said to remain in Egypt’s prisons today under the emergency laws, and few have been formally charged. One of those detained was Hany Nazeer, who linked to his blog a controversial book that some in his village perceived as insulting to Islam. The excuse that he was detained for his own protection is scarcely credible.
Another distinguished Egyptian blogger, Abdel Karim Suleiman, known on-line as Karim Amer, has been imprisoned for nearly four years. Last month, in the most recent instance of harassment, security officers at Borg Al-Arab Prison in Alexandria entered Amer’s cell and confiscated his notebooks as well as letters of support that had been sent to him from around the world, according to Amer’s lawyers. The notebooks are believed to contain his personal writings.
Equally, the detention by State Security of the respected novelist, Mus’ad Abul Fagr, simply because of his outspoken defense of the rights of Sinai Bedouin, is an abuse of the emergency powers.
Particularly egregious were the beatings and detention of journalists by police and state security officers in early April during a demonstration in Cairo in opposition to the emergency laws. Samir Amr, an Al-Jazeera correspondent; Ibrahim Kamal Eddin, a reporter for the independent daily Nahdat Misr; Imad Fawaz, a reporter with the opposition daily, Al-Karama; Mohamed Hussam Eldeen, a photographer with the independent daily, Al-Masry al-Youm; and a Dream TV crew were all reporting on the demonstrations when they were attacked, their cameras and notebooks seized.
As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Egyptian government is mandated under Articles 9 and 19 to insure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of freedoms including freedom of speech and the press, while safeguarding freedom of expression broadly.
In view of the broad stability and peace that has prevailed in Egypt for years, there would seem to be little excuse for invoking or enforcing emergency provisions that are designed for a period of violence and unrest. As the government and the citizens of Egypt approach the next presidential election, we of the Overseas Press Club of America and the broad range of media professionals we represent, all hope that we can count on the Egyptian government to provide every encouragement to the nation’s print, broadcast and on-line media to report freely and fairly so that a broad range of views may be aired, without fear or prejudice during this critical period.
The citizens of Egypt deserve no less.
David A. Andelman
Freedom of the Press Committee
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
Dr. Ahmed Nazif
Office of the Prime Minister
Sharia Maglis esh-sha’ab
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: (011.20.2) 366.8048
The Middle East Times
Daily News Egypt