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Editor freed on bail, still facing death penalty

(RSF/IFEX) - 24 August 2011 - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the news that Abuzar Ali Al-Amin, the deputy editor of the now closed daily Rai Al-Shaab, was finally released on bail on 22 August, but deplores the failure to dismiss the new charges that were brought against him in June.

Amin is still facing a possible death sentence on charges in connection with articles he wrote and with a security official's claim that he was attacked by Amin at the time of his arrest in May 2010, when Amin was tortured.

The news of Amin's release, which Reporters Without Borders has been demanding for months, was overshadowed by the confiscation of all copies of the Arabic-language daily Al-Jarida from 20 to 22 August, the harassment of its staff and the possibility that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will reinstate prior censorship.

"We are relieved to learn that Amin is finally out of prison but we call for all the charges against him to be dropped," Reporters Without Borders said. "Meanwhile, the authorities must stop harassing journalists and confiscating newspapers, [which appears to be] the security forces' preferred method for preventing the publication of embarrassing articles and for tightening the financial vice on the media. The announcement that prior censorship could be officially reintroduced is a particularly ominous development."

The security forces prevented Al-Jarida from appearing for three days in a row by seizing all the copies from the printer's without giving any explanation. Editor Saadeldin Ibrahim, who was fined twice last month, and managing editor Hashim Hussain were summoned for interrogation last week by security officials, who threatened to close the newspaper if it did not change its tune.

The newspaper is accused of being too close to the staff of Ajras Al-Hurriya, a newspaper that was closed down on 8 July, and of employing its former journalists.

Reporters Without Borders also deplores secretary of state for information Sanaa Hamad al-Awad's announcement that the ruling NCP is considering the reintroduction of prior censorship. Lifted and reimposed several times in the past, the move would allow the security forces to tighten their control of the news and dictate editorial policies to the media.

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