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Violator of online free expression to host international Internet meeting

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders finds it surprising and disturbing that Egypt is hosting next week's Internet Governance Forum, at which important decisions about the Internet's future will be taken or announced.

Representatives of foreign governments, international organisations, universities and ICANN (Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers) are all due to attend the forum taking place from 15 to 18 November 2009 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

"Egypt's legitimacy to host such a meeting is questionable as it has repeatedly been guilty of violations of online free expression," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is astonishing that a government that is openly hostile to Internet users is assigned the organisation of an international meeting on the Internet's future."

The press freedom organisation added: "Egypt is one of the enemies of the Internet and if Internet governance requires a degree of regulation, it should be of a liberal nature and not the kind that the Egyptian government would like to impose."

Four cases in the past two weeks alone illustrate Egypt's readiness to censor the Internet.

Police arrested two young bloggers, Mohamed Adel, 20, and Amr Osama, 19, and their lawyer, Amr Ezz, in central Cairo on the night of 3 November on charges of "spreading false news and rumours liable to disturb the peace". The three were taken to El-Azbakeya police station where they were beaten by police officers. They were released the next morning. Adel was previously detained for three months and tortured after being arrested in November 2008.

At the end of October, authorities abandoned an investigation into a police officer, Ashraf Aglan, and his brother, Ahmed Aglan, who attacked another blogger, Wael Abbas (see his blog: http://misrdigital.blogspirit.com/ ). The prosecutor said the case was dropped for lack of evidence although three medical reports confirm Abbas' injuries.

Ayman Nour, a human rights lawyer who defends freedom of expression, was forbidden to leave the country on 4 November, as he was about to fly to the United States. He was given no reason for the travel ban.

Finally, Reporters Without Borders has received no reply to its recent letter to President Hosni Mubarak requesting the release of Kareem Amer, a blogger who has been held for three years (since 6 November 2006). His release would have been seen as a sign of support for free expression on the eve of the Internet Governance Forum.

Sign the petition for Kareem Amer's release: http://www.rsf.org/fr-petition21985-Kareem_Amer.html

Egypt is ranked 143rd out of 175 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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