REGIONS:

Blogger Tamer Mabrouk fined for reporting on environmental pollution, working conditions at chemicals company

(ANHRI/IFEX) - On 20 January 2009, the Al Zohor court of misdemeanors fined blogger Tamer Mabrouk, author of the "hakika masriyah" blog, LE 2,500 (approx. US$450). A further LE 40,000 (approx. US$7,240) was awarded in compensation to the Trust Chemicals Company in a libel case filed by the company in June 2008.

The lawsuit was filed by the company after Mabrouk (whose blog is located at http://elhakika.blogspot.com ) accused the company of throwing substances hazardous to both human and marine life into the lake at Al Manzlah and into the Suez Canal. He also alleged that working conditions in the company are so hard that workers staged a sit-in against sackings and demanded copies of their contracts.

The company only supplied photocopies of the documents asked for in court and the legality of the text the case relied on is doubtful. Moreover, the lawsuit was filed in violation of Article 3 of the law of criminal procedures and with total disregard for Article 60 of the penal law, which says the law does not cover any act performed with good intentions. According to ANHRI, the case is a breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 47 of the Egyptian constitution, both of which ensure the right to freedom of expression.

ANHRI feels that the court has ignored the blogger's defense, which he based around the argument that his writing satisfied the conditions of permitted criticism of a factual incident, which is in the public interest. The other aspect of his defense was the ambiguity of elements of the indictment which were not even mentioned in the original petition, and the failure of the company to specify the terms of the alleged defamation.

ANHRI's Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression believes this sentence to be overly harsh, and will be an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression if carried out. It disregards the right to legitimate criticism, corroborating once again the fact that whenever the country moves one step forward in freedom of expression and opinion, such an unfair verdict is enough to drag it several steps backward.

The Legal Aid Unit for Freedom of Expression expects support from the judiciary for the right to legitimate criticism and freedom of expression and opinion, confirming again the need to change the laws which restrict these freedoms. This is the sword that - until this happens - remains hanging over the heads of every opinion maker in Egypt.

Updates the Mabrouk case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94352