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Thirty-four IFEX members, other organisations call for an end to imprisonment of journalists

(EOHR/HRinfo/IFEX) - The following is a joint action by 34 IFEX members and seven other organisations:

A Call to Stop Imprisoning Egyptian Journalists

The undersigned free expression organisations, members and partners of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) gathering in Montevideo, Uruguay, call upon the Egyptian authorities to stop pursuing Egyptian journalists and threatening them with imprisonment simply for expressing their critical opinions of the Egyptian government.

The undersigned organisations declare their solidarity with the five Egyptian editors-in-chief who are facing prison sentences issued in September. The editors-in-chief who have been sentenced to one year of imprisonment are: Ibrahim Essa, editor-in-chief of "Al Doustoor", Adel Hammouda, editor-in-chief of "Al Fagr", Wael al Ebrashy, editor-in-chief of "Saout al Ommah", Abdel Halim Quandeel, former editor-in-chief of "Al Karama", and Anwar Hawary, editor-in-chief of "Al Wafd". Mohamed Said Saeed, editor-in-chief of "Al Badeel" is also awaiting a sentence in a lawsuit filed against him. Not to mention many other prison sentences that have been issued against journalists. Despite the promise made three years ago by President Mubarak to abolish prison sentences in publication cases, instead of journalists being provided with more protection for freedom of expression, such sentences against journalists have increased tremendously in the last few years.

These prison sentences against Egyptian journalists were the result of lawsuits filed by lawyers who are affiliated with the ruling National Democratic Party. This series of lawsuits aims to terrorise independent and opposition journalists and to penalise them for their writings and criticism of governmental personnel, including the President of the Republic. The most recent trial took place on 2 October 2007 in the Bolaque Misdemeanors Court, where nine cases were viewed by the Court against Ibrahim Essa. The nine cases were filed by lawyers who are members and affiliates of the National Democratic Party.

It is worth mentioning that the Egyptian Penal Code contains notorious provisions that can be interpreted in an overly broad way, such as Article 102, 179 and 188. These provisions constitute one of the main obstacles to press freedom and freedom of expression in Egypt.

The undersigned organisations also declare their solidarity with independent and opposition newspapers that went on strike as an objection to applying the Criminal Law in publication cases leading to the imprisonment of journalists. The undersigned organisations support the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, which is under attack from the government because of its strong stand against any freedom of expression violations and journalists' imprisonment.

Accordingly, the undersigned organisations call upon the Egyptian government to abolish prison sentences in publication cases in consistency with the Egyptian Constitution and international human rights documents ratified by Egypt, such as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Montevideo, 11 October 2007

Signed by:

Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia
Arab Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo), Egypt
Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), Trinidad and Tobago
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain
Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), Cambodia
Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression (CJFE), Canada
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Nepal
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), Russia
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CFMR), Philippines
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Centro de Periodismo y Etica Publica (CEPET), Mexico
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (CERIGUA), Guatemala
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), Mexico
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Globe International, Mongolia
Index on Censorship, UK
Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey
Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), Turkey
Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Mizzima News, India
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Somalia
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation (OLPEC), Tunisia
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), Palestine
PROBIDAD, El Salvador/Honduras
Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ), Kyrgyzstan
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Thailand
Union des Journalistes de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (UJAO/WAJA), Mali
Union of Journalists in Finland, Finland
International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Pakistan
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), USA
Norwegian PEN, Norway
Freedom House, United States of America
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

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