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Bloggers Philip Rizk and Dia' Eddin Gad arrested, detained, Philip Rizk freed after five days in detention, Dia' Eddin Gad still held

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of pro-Palestinian blogger Dia' Eddin Gad, who has been held since 6 February 2009, and hails the release, on 10 February, of Philip Rizk, another blogger who was arrested the same day for expressing support for the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

"There must be no let up in the international pressure that was put on the Egyptian authorities to release Rizk," Reporters Without Borders said. "Gad must also be freed. By carrying out such arrests, the Egyptian authorities are trying to make it a crime to take sides. It is an intimidating measure of a kind that is being used with increasing frequency. As well as being illegal, these two arrests are yet another warning shot to free expression in Egypt."

Police arrested Gad, 22, at his home in Kattour (in the Nile delta province of Gharbiyah) and took him away in a car to an unknown location. In January, Gad started a blog called "Voice in Anger" ( http://soutgadeb.blogspot.com ) in which he criticised the Egyptian government's position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and described himself as "an Egyptian citizen who loves his county and wishes it and its people a long life."

Meanwhile Rizk, a philosophy and psychology student at the American University in Cairo who has German and Egyptian dual citizenship, was arrested along with 14 other activists as they were returning home from a demonstration in Cairo calling on the Egyptian government to support the Palestinian cause. The prosecutor's office confirmed on 8 February that he was being held but did not say where. His family finally reported his release on 10 February. Since being reunited with his family, Rizk has called for the demonstrations to continue. An investigation into his case is still underway.

Aged 26, Rizk started a blog called Tabula Gaza ( http://tabulagaza.blogspot.com/ ) while living in the Gaza Strip from 2005 to 2007, working for the British NGO Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME). He made a return trip to Gaza in the summer of 2008 to start making a documentary about the living conditions of the population. During the two visits, he also freelanced for various media outlets such as sfTV, ARD, Al Jazeera and "Daily News".

Both Gad and Rizk have voiced strong support for the Palestinian cause in their blogs but there are important differences. Rizk's blog is mainly about the life of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while Gad's blog is more political and is openly critical of the position taken by President Hosni Mubarak's government in the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza's Hamas government.

Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet." At least six bloggers were arrested in 2008 because of what they posted on online forums and chat sites. Some were blamed for the April 2008 unrest, in which thousands took to the streets in Cairo in protest against living conditions.

The protests were organised in part on the Internet through social networking sites. The authorities were taken by surprise and since then have stepped up surveillance of Internet users. For example, to get a WiFi connection, you have to provide personal information that enables the authorities to locate you.

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