Egypt Attacks on the Press


February 7, 1999
Abbas al-Tarabili, Al-Wafd, LEGAL ACTION
Muhammad Abdel Alim, Al-Wafd, LEGAL ACTION
Between February 7 and February 8, al-Tarabili, co-editor in chief of the opposition daily Al-Wafd, and Abdel Alim, a reporter for the paper, were questioned by state security prosecutors on charges of “publishing false information to harm public interests, inciting public opinion, and inciting workers to abandon work.”

The action stemmed from the publication of an article in the February 5 edition of Al-Wafd titled “Government Considers an Urgent Meeting to Contain Worker Unrest: Protests and Strikes Spread to Government Institutions and the Central Bank.” The article reported on a workers strike by employees of the Central Bank’s printing press.
The two journalists were released on 500LE ($150) bail each on February 8 and await possible trial.
The charges were brought under Egypt’s Penal Code. Both journalists face up to two years in prison if tried and convicted of the charges.

February 14, 1999
Galal Aref, Al-Arabi, LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors referred Aref, a contributor to the Nasserite opposition weekly Al-Arabi, to the Cairo Criminal Court for trial on charges of libeling Egyptian writer Tharwat Abaza. Abaza, who writes for the semi-official daily Al-Ahram, had filed a complaint with prosecutors against Aref over a 1999 article Aref wrote calling the writer “loathsome and abusive.”

In 1998, two Egyptian journalists–Gamal Fahmy and Amer Nassef–were imprisoned after they were convicted of libeling Abaza.

If convicted of the charge, Aref faces up to one year in prison.

February 20, 1999
Abbas al-Tarabili, Al-WafdLEGAL ACTION Gamal Sawqi, Al-Wafd, LEGAL ACTION
State security prosecutors summoned al-Tarabili, co-editor in chief of the opposition daily  Al-Wafd, and Shawqi, a reporter for the paper, for questioning on charges of “publishing false and sensational information with the intent of harming national interests.” The charges stemmed from an article published in Al-Wafd stating that Egyptian banks had been instructed by authorities not to accept time deposits from customers for periods exceeding one year.

An investigation into the case is continuing. If tried and convicted of the charge, both journalists could be imprisoned.

February 23, 1999
The Higher Press Council (HPC), a government regulatory body, revoked the license of the weekly newspaper Sawt al-Ummah on the grounds that the newspaper failed to notify the HPC of changes in the company’s shareholders, as required by law.

Earlier in the month, Sawt al-Umma’s parent company–Sawt Al- Umma Publishing and Journalism House–had elected a new board of directors after new shareholders had purchased a stake in the company.

On February 23, Al-Ahram Printing House, the paper’s printer, refused to print the February 21 edition of Sawt al-Umma, citing the HPC’s decision.

Issam Ismail Fahmy, chairman of Sawt al-Umma Publishing and Journalism House, was the former chairman of the weekly Al-Dustur, which was shut down by the authorities in February 1998 after the Ministry of Information revoked its license. Ibrahim Issa, an editor of Sawt al-Umma, had also worked for Al-Dustur as well as the weekly Alf-Lela, which was closed by authorities in August 1998 when its license was revoked.

April 20, 1999
Magdy Hussein, Al-Sha’b LEGAL ACTION
Adel Hussein, Al-Sha’b LEGAL ACTION
Saleh Badawi, Al-Sha’b LEGAL ACTION
Essam Hanafi, Al-Sha’b LEGAL ACTION
A state prosecutor referred Magdy Hussein, editor in chief of the bi-weekly organ of the Socialist Labor Party Al-Sha’b, Adel Hussein, Secretary General of the party, Badawi, a reporter for Al-Sha’b, and Hanafi, a cartoonist for the paper, to trial on charges of libeling Youssef Wali, the Minister of Agriculture and deputy prime minister.

Wali had filed a complaint against Al-Sha’b on April 1 in response to rancorous criticism of the minister for what the paper described as his ministry’s “agricultural normalization” with Israel. Among the accusations were that the minister had imported tainted seeds and fertilizers from Israel that led to an increase in cancer among Egyptians.

If convicted of the charges, the four face two years imprisonment and fines reaching 7,500LE ($2,200).


February 24, 1998
Magdy Hussein, Al-Sha’b IMPRISONED
Muhammad Hilal, Al-Sha’b IMPRISONED
The Bulaq Misdemeanor Appeals Court upheld a libel conviction against Magdy Hussein, editor in chief of the biweekly Islamist-oriented Al-Sha’b, and Muhammad Hilal, head of the Governorates Department for the newspaper. The appellate court confirmed one-year prison sentences against Hussein and Hilal and fined the journalists 7,500LE each (US$2,200) for libeling Alaa’ al-Alfi, the son of former interior minister Hassan al-Alfi. The libel charges stemmed from a series of articles and cartoons published in Al-Sha’b in 1996, alleging that Alaa’ al-Alfi had used his father’s government position to profit from business deals. Hussein and Hilal were taken into custody on March 8 and March 11 respectively, and imprisoned in Torah Mazraa Prison.

In a letter sent to Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak on February 25, CPJ condemned the court’s decision and urged the government to end its use of criminal defamation statutes against the press.

On July 2, the Court of Cassation overturned the convictions against the journalists and ordered their release. Both were freed from Torah Mazraa Prison on July 3 after serving four months of their sentence.

February 26, 1998
Staff of the weekly Al-Dustur were informed by Al-Ahram Printing House, the paper’s printer, that the Ministry of Information had revoked its publishing license. The move came as a result of an article published in the February 25 edition of the newspaper, which reported on a communiquŽ allegedly issued by the militant Islamic Group threatening to kill three prominent Coptic business men it accused of being agents for the United States.

Since its inception in December 1995,&nvsp;Al-Dustur had developed a wide readership and high circulation. It had been the target of repeated state harassment stemming from its coverage of sensitive political issues in Egypt.

March 4, 1998
A state prosecutor charged Suleiman, chairman of the Misr al Fatah Party organ weekly Misr al-Fatah; Taher, its director; and Abdel Al, the editor in chief, with libeling Finance Minister Mohieddin al-Gharib. The charge stemmed from a February 19 article which accused the minister of “wasting public funds and corruption.” If convicted, the journalists face the possibility of imprisonment under Egypt’s harsh laws governing the press.

March 21, 1999
Gamal Fahmy, Al-ArabiIMPRISONED
Fahmy, managing editor of the now-defunct weekly Al-Dustu and a writer for the opposition weekly Al-Arabi, was taken into custody by police at his Cairo home and brought to Torah Mazra Prison to begin a six-month prison sentence for libel.

On March 16, an appellate court upheld a criminal conviction against Fahmy for allegedly libeling Egyptian writer Tharwat Abaza. The charge stemmed from a 1995 column in Al-Arabi in which Fahmy criticized Abaza’s views about the 1956 Suez crisis and labeled Abaza’s father a British sympathizer.

Fahmy was the third Egyptian journalist jailed for libel in 1998. CPJ protested his imprisonment in a letter to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on April 2, citing the case as part of a disturbing pattern of the Egyptian government’s use of criminal libel prosecutions against journalists for their work and asking Mubarak to initiate reforms of the statutes used for this purpose.

Egypt’s Court of Cassation on August 30 overturned the lower court’s conviction, citing procedural errors in Fahmy’s trial and ordering the journalist’s immediate release, but ruled that Fahmy be retried.

March 21, 1998
Censors at the Ministry of Information banned distribution of the March 19 issue of the fortnightly magazine Cairo Times after Hisham Kassem, the magazine’s publisher, refused to comply with the censor’s demand that he remove several articles from the magazine. The articles included an interview with Islamic writer Khalil Abdel Karim, and five opinion pieces by Egyptian writers commenting on recent government restrictions on the press. In January, two of Karim’s books were seized from the printer by order of the state security prosecutor.) The censor also objected to a review of an English translation of Al-Balad Okhra, a book about life in Saudi Arabia.

Previously, on March 3, censors at the Ministry of Information had threatened to ban the magazine’s March 5 edition because of an article describing the authorities’ February 17 detention of Andrew Hammond, the paper’s deputy editor, and a free-lance photographer working with the magazine. Both were held for nearly six hours in the Ezbekia police station and State Security Investigation (SSI) headquarters.

In an April 2 letter sent to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, CPJ protested the censorship of Cairo Times and urged that authorities cease their harassment of the magazine.

March 31, 1998
Print Media CENSORED
The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones issued a decree ordering the suspension of all printing services for magazines and newspapers which publish in the free investment zone established in Nasser City. Forty publications can print only in the free investment zone because they are licensed abroad–a tactic they adopted in order to circumvent government restrictions on printing licenses.

The suspension forced the newspapers and magazines to suspend publication or to secure more expensive printing services abroad.

Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri reversed the decree on May 21. “Prime Minister Kamal al-Janzuri decided that books, reviews or periodicals can again be printed in the free zones,” cabinet affairs minister Talaat Hammad said in statement.

May 20, 1998
Amer Abdel Hadi Nassef, Al-Ousbou’, Al-AhrarIMPRISONED
Nassef, a journalist who writes frequently for the weekly Al-Ousbou’, was convicted on appeal of libeling Egyptian writer Tharwat Abaza in an article published in the daily newspaper Al-Ahrar, organ of the Liberal Party, in 1996. He was sentenced to three months in prison. Nassef turned himself in to police on May 25 and began serving his sentence in Torah Mazraa Prison.

In a letter to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on July 9, CPJ called on the president to examine legal options to secure the release of Nassef and journalist Gamal Fahmy and end the use of criminal defamation statutes against journalists.

Nassef was released from prison on August 30 after completing his term.

May 3, 1998
Cairo Times publisher Kassem was informed by his printer, Sahara Printing House, that it would no longer print his magazine in Egypt by order of the General Authority for Free Zones and Investment (GAFI). Like several other publications, Cairo Times had been printing in the free investment zone established in Nasser City. It is the only place they may print in Egypt, because they are licensed abroad-a tactic they adopted to circumvent government restrictions on printing licenses.

The justification for the printing ban on Cairo Times was that authorities consider the magazine a political publication, and hence not able to publish in the zone according to current regulations. The ban on Cairo Times came just weeks after Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri reversed a GAFI decree issued in late March which had ordered the suspension of all printing services for magazines and newspapers publishing in the free investment zone.

The magazine estimated that it had lost US$30,000-$50,000 since March as a result of government censorship because of lost sales and advertising revenue on the banned issues, and the increased costs of having to print in Cyprus after the GAFI decree went into effect.

In a June 4 letter to President Hosni Mubarak, CPJ condemned the move as a further example of government harassment of the magazine.

August 12, 1998
Ministry of Information censors confiscated the inaugural August 12 issue of the new cultural weekly Alf Lela, saying that the newspaper contained articles of a “political nature” although it was licensed as a cultural publication. Staffers from Alf Lela suspect that one of the articles in question may have discussed a recently released movie about the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

One week later, authorities banned the August 19 issue of Alf Lela without giving a reason. The paper’s license was subsequently revoked.

Alf Lela, which is published in Cyprus, was founded by former staff members of the now-defunct weekly Al-Dustur. The Ministry of Information revoked the license of Al-Dustur on February 26 after it had published a report on death threats made by the militant Islamic Group against prominent Coptic businessmen.

September 16, 1998
Middle East TimesCENSORED
Censors at the Ministry of Information ordered editors to excise two articles from the September 19 edition of the English-language weekly Middle East Times. One of the censored articles discussed the campaign by Coptic Christian organizations outside Egypt against alleged government persecution of Egypt’s Christian minority. The second article discussed a recently released report by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights on social violence in Egypt.

One week later, on September 23, censors forced Middle East Times editors to remove another article about military service from the forthcoming issue. In the article, Egyptian men were asked their opinions on compulsory military service. According to the Middle East Times, the censor explained that military service is a “matter of national security and is not allowed to be written about in the press.”

October 22, 1998
Mustafa Bakry, Al-Ousbou’LEGAL ACTION
Mahmoud Bakry, Al-Ousbou’LEGAL ACTION
The Helwan misdemeanors court ruled that Mustafa and Mahmoud Bakry–editor in chief and managing editor, respectively, of the pro-Nasserite weekly Al-Osbou–were guilty of libeling former Justice Party president Muhammad Abdel Aal. The charges stemmed from a series of articles they wrote for the weekly Al-Ahrar in 1996, which included an accusation that Aal had illegally seized property in Cairo.

The Bakry brothers each received a one-year prison sentence, but they struck an agreement with the prosecutor general and were allowed to remain free until the Court