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JOURNALIST STILL MISSING

Two years after the disappearance of Reda Helal, the deputy editor of the Egyptian newspaper "Al-Ahram", mystery still surrounds his whereabouts, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Helal is among 20 journalists whose disappearances in Egypt since 1982 may be related to their work, says CPJ.

The IFEX member has called on Egyptian authorities to make public the details of its inquiry into the disappearance and to step up efforts to find Helal. Helal's colleagues say he left the "Al-Ahram" offices in Cairo on 11 August 2003 but never returned.

Helal was a well known liberal writer who was critical of Arab nationalism and Islamism, unlike most of his Egyptian colleagues. Helal supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and backed Egypt-Israel relations, says CPJ. But his final column offers few clues about his disappearance and did not appear to be controversial. A day before he disappeared, he wrote an article which was critical of the way the Egyptian Journalist Syndicate elected its leaders, notes CPJ.

A group calling itself Egyptian Islamic Jihad indicated in a recent e-mail that it had killed Helal in 2003, but journalists and rights activists have cast doubt on the veracity of the claim, saying the e-mail was sent long after Helal's disappearance. Egyptian journalists say there is little evidence to prove that Helal might have been kidnapped.

Visit:
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Egypt11aug05na.html
- Press Freedom in Egypt: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/mideast04/egypt.html
- Egyptian Organization for Human Rights: http://www.eohr.org

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