Attacks on the Press 2005: Middle East Snapshots

Attacks and developments throughout the region


• In February, Bahraini authorities detained blogger Ali Abdel Imam and two technicians working with him. Abdel Imam is the founder and editor of bahrainonline, which features a blog with commentary about Bahrain, as well as a discussion forum. The three were charged with violating the press, communications, and penal codes. They were released in mid-March, but the case was not closed.


• In January, Adel Aidan, a correspondent working for the Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya, was detained by authorities shortly after the station aired a disputed report of clashes between Kuwaiti government forces and militants. According to press reports quoting Aidan’s lawyer, the journalist was charged with “reporting false news that undermines the country’s position internally and abroad.” Aidan was released four days later.

• In February, during a meeting with Kuwaiti newspaper editors, Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah threatened either to suspend or to shut down any newspaper that publishes information related to the government’s fight against religious extremists.


• In June, the body of Libyan journalist Dayf al-Ghazal al-Shuhaibi was found in a Benghazi suburb. He had been missing since May 21. A former reporter for the government-owned daily Azahf al-Akhdar, al-Ghazal had recently been critical of government officials and the official media in articles written for the London-based online publications Libya Alyoum and Libya Jeel. He was briefly detained and questioned about his online writings by Libyan security agents in April. Justice Minister Ali Hasnaoui said al-Ghazal had been shot in the head and that his death was being investigated as murder.


• In March, freelance journalist Mohamed Ould Lamine Mahmoudi and two antislavery activists were detained after they interviewed a woman in southern Mauritania who claimed that she had been kept as a slave by a family in a nearby town. A local source told CPJ that the three were charged with fabricating information and tarnishing Mauritania’s image. An appeals court ordered their release in April.


• In June, Sudanese justice officials canceled the license of Sudan’s English-language daily, The Khartoum Monitor. The Monitor has been harassed by authorities repeatedly over the years. The newspaper’s more recent problem with its license can be traced to its publication of articles on slavery more than two years ago. The license was restored in July by order of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, according to press reports.

• In May, U.S. freelance photographer Brad Clift was released after two weeks’ detention by Sudanese authorities. Sudanese security forces detained Clift while he was taking photographs at a camp for internally displaced persons outside Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state. He was accused of working without a proper permit, but charges were not filed against him. Clift was held under house arrest at the U.S. Agency for International Development office.


• On October 12, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was convicted of “insulting and weakening Turkish identity through the media.” An Istanbul court sentenced Dink, the editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, to a six-month suspended term. He planned to appeal. The charges arose from articles published in 2004 dealing with the collective memory of the Armenian massacres of 1915-17 under the Ottoman Empire. Turkish law, even with recent legal reforms, allows for journalists to be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned for their work. Dink was prosecuted under a provision of the new penal code that states: “A person who insults Turkishness, the Republic, or the Turkish Parliament will be punished with imprisonment ranging from six months to three years.” Turkish authorities did not elaborate on what they considered insulting in Dink’s work. Dink, who founded Agos in 1996, was sentenced the same week talks began on Turkey’s application to join the European Union.


• In June, Bassma al-Jandaly, a reporter with the English-language daily Gulf News,was detained briefly and harassed at the Dubai airport. Al-Jandaly was told that she was wanted in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah, where police claimed that an article she had written in February had interfered with an investigation. The article concerned a Sharjah woman who was wounded by a knife-wielding man who had apparently attacked other women. Al-Jandaly was released from airport custody after a few hours.