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ANHRI’s First Annual Report Released
ANHRI’s First Annual Report Released
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued its first annual report about the status of the freedom of expression in Egypt in 2007. The report has two sections: the first section: about the legal framework and key stops in the freedom of expression in 2007 and the second section: is about violations against the freedom of expression and freedom of the press spotted and observed by ANHRI in this year.
Friday, February 1,2008 13:43
by Duaa Abdul Raouf IkhwanWeb

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued its first annual report about the status of the freedom of expression in Egypt in 2007. The report has two sections: the first section:  about the legal framework and key stops in the freedom of expression in 2007 and the second section: is about violations against the freedom of expression and freedom of the press spotted and observed by ANHRI in this year.
 
Key stops in the freedom of expression in 2007
 
A loose use of articles related to smears, defamation in penal code
 The article of offending and defamation in the penal code the most recurrent articles used against journalists and writers in 2007. The Egyptian government itself, directly and through many lawyers and members or protégées affiliated to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), sued many journalists using this article.
To curb the space of the freedom of expression and to reject the opinion of the other, many government vetted lawyers and officials interpreted criticism directed by journalists as n insult and defamation.
 
Strong return to political, religious Hisba cases
 
The report states also that hardline clerics seized the opportunity to spread an atmosphere of fanaticism among citizens and an atmosphere of fear among writers and the journalists through filing hundreds of cases of Hisba (Hisba is when a Muslim individual volunteers to interfere in the lives of others once they commit a crime against God or against the people) that regardless of their success or failure may bring them extremist gains or money through the awards which they may receive when they win these cases against writers or journalists.
 
Problem of increasing number of journalists unaffiliated to press syndicate aggravates
 
A huge number of young journalists have been denied the right the right to join the Press Syndicate because of the unjust conditions that the Press Syndicate and law impose, like the condition of working with a licensed Egyptian newspaper.
 
Such a condition opens it wide for many officials in these newspapers to give very tough conditions for hiring young journalists like giving low salaries or even without giving any salary maltreatment. Many young journalists fall prey to these tough conditions pinning their hopes, after working in such a licensed paper, on joining the syndicate without facing hurdles.
The number of professional journalists who haven"t been accepted in the press syndicate are up to 8000 journalists, while the number of members of the Press Syndicate nationwide is 5000 journalists.
 
Newspapers against freedom of the press
 
The report states that there are newspapers that defend the freedom of the press, others that hate the freedom of the press. The report also pointed the finger of accusation against the triangle of repression that includes government, Hisba lawyers, and some newspapers like Rosa Al Youssef.
 
Press Syndicate elections
 
The Press Syndicate, founded in 1941, defends the freedom of the press through a freedoms committee inside it, and issues an annual report around its activities.
 
In November 2007, the general assembly assembled to elect a chairman of journalists and a 4-year syndicate board. The judiciary committee supervising elections of unions declared that government vetted journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed won the post of chairman while the so called movement for syndicate independence failed.
 
Blocking private, party newspapers
 
In response to the government led attacks against the press in Egypt, party and special newspapers decided to declared a day of strike and weren’t issued on that day protesting at suing journalists and the severe retreat in the already low margin of freedoms, specially after issuing convictions against 7 editors-in-chief of newspapers, which were like the straw that split the camel back, in a complete contravention to president Mubarak"s promise of cancelling jail sentences in press cases.
 
The strike implemented by 22 party and independent newspaper attracted attention to the big retreat of freedom of the press in Egypt. This strike was carried also by websites especially those related to human rights groups.
 
The legal restrictions on the freedom of expression in Egypt include also curbing the right of founding the newspapers according to law of the press no. 96 of the year 1996. This law authorizes the government dominated Supreme Press Council to issue licences to newspapers, ban and supervise newspapers. Press law no. 20 of the year 1936 gives the Cabinet the right to prevent any prints published abroad from being circulated or reprinted. These laws also authorize imposing a ban on circulating and publishing information.
 
The report discussed also the freedom of expression in the press and among writers in Egypt. In 2007, many violations were committed against the press including suing, threatening and arresting journalists in addition to defaming them, physically assaulting them and preventing them from doing their job.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information listed several violations committed against various forms of artistic creation. These violations included: Banning, sponsorship, intervention to amend soap operas, filing cases and fatwas of  Takfir (edicts stating that someone is unbeliever).
 
2007 witnessed also unprecedented attacks against the freedom of opinion and expression on the World Wide Web. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information listed many violations in this field including blocking websites, illegal detention of many bloggers, assaults against bloggers and web activists, filing cases against a number of bloggers and web activists.
 
This report was prepared by Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Doaa Sultan, Al-Dustoor newspaper"s deputy editor-in-chief, Rawda Ahmed Sayed", a lawyer in the ANHRI, Abdou Abdul Aziz, an administrative manager at the ANHRI and Mina Zikri, a programs manager at the ANHRI.


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