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Head of actors' union files libel suit against fellow actor over Facebook comments

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 18 March 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that the head of the actors' union, Ashraf Zaki, has filed an insult and libel suit against fellow union member Hisham Bahaa El Din because the latter published an article on Facebook criticising the performance of the union board and the current union head.

El Din, who was one of the candidates in the previous elections against Ashraf Zaki, wrote an article entitled "Scandal at the Acting Profession's Union" on 1 January 2010 and posted it on Facebook. El Din listed alleged violations committed by union board members, which led Zaki to file a lawsuit against him before the misdemeanors court, accusing him of insult and libel. The first hearing will be held on 24 April 2010.

In January 2010, Zaki filed a lawsuit against El Din accusing him of committing a hoax after El Din submitted a report to the police department accusing Zaki of insulting him and threatening him over the phone to force him out of the elections.

"This is the first time not only that a citizen has filed a libel case over Facebook content, but also the first time that an artist has filed a suit against his colleague," said ANHRI. "It is really pathetic to forward differences of opinion to a court."

ANHRI regards it as extremely unpleasant that the head of the actors' union - one who is supposed to be defending the freedom of creativity, thought, opinion and expression - would sue a fellow union member because of a difference of opinion. ANHRI added that Zaki should have simply written an article in response to the accusations directed to him.

ANHRI believes that all union members should have the right to criticise and assess the performance of the board without being prosecuted.

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