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Printing press refuses to print edition of newspaper

(ANHRI/IFEX) - On 20 August 2008, ANHRI expressed its objection to, and firm condemnation of Al Ahram Press's refusal to print the second edition of "Al-Badeel" daily independent newspaper. The press's decision came on the heels of the newspaper's coverage of a fire in al-Shoura Council, which included comments by experts suggesting that "the fire was deliberately set".

"Al Badeel" readers were surprised by the paper's absence from markets on the night of 19 August and the morning of 20 August. The newspaper management told ANHRI in a phone call that Al Ahram Press refused to complete the printing of the paper's first edition, which is usually issued in the evening, and outright refused to print the paper's second edition, on the pretext that there was a delay in receiving the necessary PDF files. However, according to some journalists of "Al Ahram" newspaper, the press's owner, who is responsible for printing "Al Ahram" and about 75% of Egyptian newspapers, refused to print "Al Badeel" because of the paper's 19 August report which had annoyed the state security apparatus by stating, "the joyfulness in Pakistan following the President's Resignation . . . Egyptian Politicians: Wishing the same for us". Another report which was due to appear in the 20 August edition of the paper stated, "Big Fire in al Shoura Council Building, reached the People's Council", and "In the Incident Fires Ripe the Documents of the 'Death Ferry', the Train of Upper Egypt, and the Cancerous Pesticides". This may have led to the printing press's refusal to print the paper.

According to ANHRI, the refusal to print "Al Badeel" was based on a flimsy argument and serves to expose the dishonesty of the government, which claims that the press is not censored.

"Al Badeel" officials, meanwhile, confirmed that they are committed to the agreed upon timing of delivery of the PDF files to the press. They sent a fax message to Al Ahram Press indicating that they hold it responsible for not printing the paper's edition, in breach of the printing press's contract with the newspaper.

Newspapers critical of the government, such as "Addustour" and "Al Badeel", have often faced refusals or delays in printing in the past, a practice which has resulted in the absence of these papers from the newsstands on more than one occasion. Moreover, ANHRI notes that the printing and distribution of the press is dominated by Al Ahram Press, the largest press in Egypt and the Middle East.

According to ANHRI, this matter is in harmony with the government's intent to dominate and censor satellite channels and stations that broadcast through "NileSat", which it owns.

"Preventing a newspaper from printing or delaying its publication is a breach of the obligation of Al Ahram Press towards those newspapers it has signed contracts with, and is an indirect and obscure approach, that exposes the censorship concealed behind this ban," said ANHRI Executive Director Gamal Eid.

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