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Journalists assaulted, websites blocked amidst crackdown on nationwide protests

(EOHR/IFEX) - 26 January 2011 - The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expressed grave concern regarding the governmental practice of blocking of the websites of Facebook, Twitter and Bambuser. The sites were used by activists and bloggers to transmit live videos of the 25 January (Day of Rage) demonstrations held throughout Egypt.

The websites of "Al Dustur" and "Al-Badeel" were also blocked after they allocated special sections of their sites to live coverage of the demonstrations.

EOHR also condemns the assault on journalist Muhammad Abd Al-Qudus, commissioner of the freedoms committee of the Journalists Syndicate. He was attacked on 26 January, while protesting in front of the syndicate. That incident comes on the heels of the 25 January attacks against several journalists from the "Al-Masry", "Al-Youm" and "Al-Shorouk" newspapers and an Al Jazeera satellite channel.

Mr. Hafez Abu Saeda, the chairman of EOHR, emphasised that these violations contradict the obligations of the government and its voluntary commitments to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva regarding the protection of the freedom of opinion, expression and the press. This is in accordance with Egypt's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The authorities' actions also contradict articles 46, 47 and 49 of the Egyptian constitution which protect freedom of opinion and expression.

Abu Saeda added that there is no room for such violations and restrictions anymore regarding media freedom in Egypt. "We are living in the age of globalisation and open information which points to the essential role of a free, independent, democratic and effective media.

Abu Saeda called for an end to the violations of freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom to exchange information. He noted that recent incidents could jeopardise freedom of expression in general and the freedom of the media in particular. He also demanded an immediate investigation into the attacks against Muhammad Abd Al-Qudus and the journalists from the aforementioned newspapers. This is in accordance with the right to the freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly protected under the constitution and international human rights conventions which have become part and parcel of the Egyptian domestic law according to Article 151 of the constitution.


BACKGROUND:

In a report entitled, "The Demonstrations on the Day of Rage and the Excessive Use of Force", EOHR documented a number of violations which were observed and reported by the organisation's lawyers.

EOHR lawyers concluded that:
- the security forces repressed the demonstrations and prevented demonstrators from expressing their opinions.
- The police used excessive force against the demonstrators, using clubs, shotguns, tear gas and rubber bullets. This resulted in the death of 3 demonstrators in the Al-Suez Governorate. The number of those injured reached around 149 in the Suez General Hospital and 25 in the Medical Insurance Hospital, including 9 individuals from the security forces. Most injuries were caused by suffocation due to the effect of the tear gas.

- Under a broad arrest policy, the authorities detained an estimated 700 detainees in 4 main governorates - Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and Al-Dakahliya. A number of activists were arrested, the most prominent of which are Amin Eskandar, Kamal Khalil, Muhammad Shabana, As'ad Heikal and Maha Abu Bakr.

EOHR chairman Abu Saeda demanded that the general prosecutor immediately release all those who have been detained while peacefully exercising their right to freely express their opinions. He emphasised that it is necessary for the Ministry of Interior to issue clear and strict instructions to the security forces dealing with the demonstrations to not use force to disperse the demonstrations, particularly through the use of clubs, sticks or through shootings with live or rubber bullets or with shotguns.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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