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Authorities raid news channel's offices; concern over increasing assault on media freedom

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 11 September 2011 - ANHRI condemns the ongoing measures and procedures applied by the transitional government that circumvent the gains of the Egyptian revolution and restrain public freedoms, especially freedom of expression. Most recently, the Egyptian security services raided the offices of Aljazeera Mubasher Misr channel in Al-Agouza district, seized the broadcasting equipment, and arrested a technical engineer who works for the channel. The raid was undertaken on the grounds that the channel was allegedly operating without a license, albeit without an official order from the prosecution.

Following the revolution of 25 January, Aljazeera news - which has operated in Egypt for years - applied to the official authorities for a license to establish a channel, Aljazeera Mubasher Misr, which focuses on Egyptian affairs. At that point, the authorities informed them that they could operate under Aljazeera's old license until a new license could be issued specifically for the new channel. It is worth noting that applications for licenses are expected to be answered within 48 hours, and that the representatives of Aljazeera only received a response from the authorities at the moment of the raid, four months after the new channel was established.

Moreover, a decision was also made to ban the publication of information regarding the Mubarak trial hearing in which Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the Military Council, was supposed to testify.

ANHRI notes that the attack on the headquarters of the Aljazeera channel is part of a concerted security campaign against mass media and freedom of expression. The campaign began with a decision issued on 7 September 2011 to freeze the granting of satellite TV licenses to recent applicants. In a joint meeting between the Military Council and the Ministers Council, where this decision was made, the authorities were urged to take all necessary measures with channels deemed "seditious". Furthermore, the emergency law was re-established, and a group of protesters that participated in the events at the Israeli embassy were indicted and are to be tried before the State Security Emergency Court.

The incidents come a few months after the issuing of legislation criminalizing sit-ins and peaceful protests, considered to be an unprecedented setback from the gains of the Egyptian revolution.

"All these procedures and measures that are based on manipulative and illegal reasons applied by the interim authorities are reminiscent of the ways of deposed president Hosni Mubarak. They call into question the democratic space that we hoped would expand and solidify, rather than fall into retreat through a gradual restriction of public freedoms, and freedom of expression particularly," stated ANHRI.
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