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Disinformation campaign by Tunisia's government in Egyptian newspapers

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 11 November 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) strongly condemned the continuous media deception that is practiced by some Egyptian newspapers. These papers published a number of ads praising the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on the 23rd anniversary of his assumption of power. The advertisements were in the form of news articles and did not clearly state that they were written in Tunisia by the Tunisian media.

A number of Egyptian newspapers published at least nine ads each namely, "Al-Ahram", "Al Arabi", "Al-Wafd", "Almojaz", "Rosa Al-Youssef", while "El-Akhbar" newspaper published three ads. The ads were published between 4 and 9 November.

ANHRI believes that despite the right of every newspaper to publish advertisements in accordance with their policies, publishing misleading advertisements in the form of articles and standard news is a professional error that defies the press charter and deliberately mixes media reports with advertising. The citizen loses confidence in these newspapers, and this significantly threatens the independence of the press.

ANHRI is disappointed as it did not expect that "Al-Wafd" specifically would fall in this type of non-professional practice, especially because there is no financial or other justification for a newspaper that is supposed to be tracking an opposition party to misinform its readers and promote the image of a president known for his hostility against press freedom and the freedom of Tunisian citizens.

ANHRI is also saddened by the continued dissemination of the misleading advertisements in "Al Arabi" newspaper, especially because the editor, Abdullah Sinawi, is an important defender of press freedom in Egypt.

As for the state newspapers that published these ads, there is nothing new but the increase in frequency, especially "Al-Akhbar", which published three ads in less than a week. "Rosa Al-Youssef", "Al-Ahram and "al-Akhbar" used to defend the repressive Arab governments of Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Gamal Eid, director of ANHRI, said: "it has become natural to match serious and professional journalism with independent newspapers, including 'Al Masry Al Youm', 'AlShrook' and 'AlDostoor' during Ibrahim Eissa's presidency so it is natural for citizens to turn to these papers instead of the state press and the supposed independent papers, such as 'AlMogaez' newspaper."

Eid added, "we will not stop our monitoring of these practices as part of our support for press freedom, because supporting freedom of the press entails criticism and the exposure of practices incompatible with the press charter."

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