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REGIONS:

ANHRI concerned over sharp decline in freedom of expression

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 26 September 2011 - ANHRI condemns the return of the repressive practices of the former Egyptian regime as several recent worrying developments signal a decline in media and press freedoms. These practices followed a declaration of the ongoing application of the emergency law by the Military Council, on the basis of a 2010 decision by the dissolved People's Assembly. In addition, new provisions have been added to the emergency law that result in further restrictions, such as stipulations regarding "publishing false news".

Amr Al-Shobaky, a famous writer and expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, head of the Al-Bada'el forum and a member of the Consultative Committee of the Al-Adl party, was briefly detained on the evening of 25 September by the Cairo airport security services as he returned from Beirut following his participation in an Arab Anti-Corruption Organization seminar. The authorities seized his passport for investigation and later released him, without providing a logical explanation for their actions against such a well known person.

The Egyptian authorities also banned French journalist Marie Edmee Josette Duboc from entering Egypt on 23 September and deported her back to Paris. According to security sources, Duboc's name was on the airport security personnel's list of individuals to be denied entry into the country for having harmed Egypt's reputation. Duboc is a labour rights activist who resided in Egypt for three years, during which time she researched and wrote a number of reports on labour relations and social movements in Egypt. It is worth noting that prominent Lebanese blogger Emad Bazzi was also refused entry to Egypt a few weeks earlier and was deported to Beirut after spending several hours in the Cairo airport. In that instance, the authorities also failed to explain the reasons for their actions.

Finally, in an unprecedented action since the Egyptian revolution, the authorities confiscated the 25 September edition of "Sawt Al-Ummah" newspaper, which is headed by Abdel-Halim Qandil, and failed to provide a reason for the seizure. The authorities even denied being involved in the incident, opening the door to speculation among activists about this repressive action. Qandil said in press releases that the confiscated edition included an investigative report entitled "The scandal of Omar Suleiman's Intelligence - Why won't General Murad Muwafi initiate a purge of Mubarak and Suleiman's men?" on the ninth page, noting that Muwafi is the current head of the Egyptian Intelligence.

Prior to this, Qandil received a call from the Al-Ahram printing house, which prints the newspaper, informing him that the edition had been seized and its copies had been shredded, in compliance with orders received from an undisclosed sovereign entity.

"Freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt is experiencing a serious turning point, especially with the insistence of the Military Council on the continuing enforcement of the emergency law, with an expansion of its provisions. This is a very worrying sign," said ANHRI.

"Following a popular uprising that raised the slogan of freedom, it is contradictory for repressive actions, seizures and the denial of entry for journalists and activists into Egypt to take place without any reasons being given. These actions are indicative of persistent remnants of the practices of the Mubarak regime," added ANHRI.

As such, ANHRI demands that the Military Council and the Egyptian government respect freedom of opinion and freedom of expression as inalienable human rights by immediately ceasing to apply the flawed emergency law and by providing logical reasons for the oppressive practices that have recently taken place.
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