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Videotaping of two episodes of "Eye on Democracy" television programme ordered halted by authorities

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Egyptian authorities recently ordered the cancellation, without justification, of the videotaping of two programmes for an American satellite television channel, Al-Hura, just hours before their shooting, and in spite of the authorities' four-week-old agreement with the company to allow the videotaping. Both programmes were on the issue of democracy, and involved interviews with Egyptian democracy activists.

Some of the young activists, from the opposition parties as well as from the ruling National Democratic Party, received telephone calls on 27 August 2008, at noon, informing them of the cancellation of the programme "Eye on Democracy", scheduled to be shot on the afternoon of 26 August. This occurred despite the fact that the time and place for the shooting had been confirmed with the authorities the day prior.

The same thing was repeated with another group of youth who support democracy, and who were invited for the shooting of another episode of the same programme. They were similarly informed of the cancellation of the videotaping just four hours prior to the scheduled shooting and were not given any reason other than that the authorities had ordered the shootings cancelled.

Noura Younis, a political activist and one of the guests of the cancelled programme, says that in early August, in Washington, she was contacted by Al-Hura channel to participate in "Eye on Democracy", which they agreed would be shot on 27 August. She says that the Cairo Video Sat company called her on 26 August to confirm the programme's shooting time. However, on 27 August, four hours before shooting, the company called her apologetically to say the programme's shooting had been cancelled on the orders of the security services.

The first programme cancelled was on youths involved in Egyptian political parties, and their views on democracy and change.

The second was about the tools that creative young activists use to support democracy - poetry, art and writing - and about those engaged in those activities.

ANHRI notes, "the situation in Egypt has become very dangerous, having the satellite channels under the control of the authorities and Media Minister Anas Al Fiqi, all of whom oppose the principle of freedom of expression, and compete among themselves to demolish citizens' rights to independent media."

It should be noted that three of the five most well-known media services companies have suffered from the restrictions imposed by the security services in the past few months. For example the Cairo News Company (CNC) had its equipment confiscated, and both Cairo Sat and the Arab News Agency have been subjected to extreme censorship and were threatened with the same fate as CNC. (. . .) If they too are threatened, this will mean the absence of any live, direct, and objective coverage for the Egyptian satellite channels.

ANHRI Executive Director Gamal Eid said that the authorities and the media minister are both trying to turn back the clock, in terms of access to critical information, and that neither the independent media, nor civil society will accept the isolation of Egypt. The restriction on Al-Hura channel is considered one in a series of measures to control and suppress the media and the expression of opinions. Many other channels, such as Al-Baraka, Al-Hekma, Al-Wozara and Al-Hewar have been through the same process. They were all shut down. Adding to this are the various aggravations to which Al-Jazeera channel has been subjected.

Eid added that the authorities would not consider offering any justification for their cancellation, and accordingly the satellite channels have become accustomed to censorship.

He added that ANHRI insists on Egyptians' right to media free from police censorship, a media that serves the public, not merely the government.

For further information on the Cairo News Company case, see:http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94083

For further information on the cases involving the Al-Baraka and Al-Hewar television stations, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92260

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