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Satellite broadcasters harassed, BBC programme cancelled: government actions leading to rigged elections, says ANHRI

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) says that the security forces are further firming their grip on satellite channels. On 23 November 2010, an hour before shooting of the first episode of the BBC program "Saa'at Hessab" (Time to Confront), instructions were issued to cancel the whole production. The show was scheduled to air on 24 November. In addition, strict instructions were distributed to all satellite channels to work only in the locations specified by the Ministry of Information for live broadcasting to cover the public elections starting on 28 November.

The BBC office in Cairo followed all the necessary procedures to produce the "Saa'at Hessab" talk show. Guests Osama alGazaly Harb (of the Democratic Front Party, which is boycotting the elections), Helmi alGazzar (of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Mona Makram Ebeid (of the Wafd party) were already present in the studio. Minutes before shooting, the security forces called and arbitrarily stopped the production.

The cancellation of the BBC production is coupled with the issuing of strict instructions to all satellite channels to work only in specified locations in certain governorates in Egypt. Channels working in Egypt are no longer free to cover elections anywhere in the country, despite their earlier pledge to inform the Ministry of Information of their operations plan and coverage locations.

In addition, the security forces arrested two al Jazeera reporters, Mohamed Badr and Mohamed alAraby, in an attempt to disrupt the station's employees just prior to the elections.

These latest restrictions complete the series of limitations imposed by the Egyptian government on civil society. The government denied all independent human rights organizations the right to monitor elections by refusing to give monitoring permits to any of them. On the other hand, organizations well-connected with the security forces were granted monitoring permits.

Gamal Eid, ANHRI's executive director, said, "It is not an exaggeration to say the elections are over before they even begin. All the processes and measures are leading to rigged elections, starting with the utter control of the Ministry of Interior on the whole process and the serious doubts cast on the elections high committee, taking into consideration its arbitrary measures and marginal powers. In addition, we are witnessing a decline in international monitoring and prohibitions on independent national institutes, as well as mass detentions of supporters of independent candidates, especially those of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now after placing satellite channels under siege, who would dare call these elections fair?"

Eid added, "In a country deprived of free elections, where the same party always rules, where a state of emergency has prevailed for more than 25 years, and where the same policies and flawed procedures are imposed, we will not contribute to misleading the public and wasting their rights to choose, decide, elect and vote. We consider the current events to be a charade that has nothing to do with elections."

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