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Newspaper's website hacked, reporter and cartoonist accused of "defaming Islam"

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 5 June 2011 - ANHRI condemns the 4 June 2011 hacking of the website of the "Akhbar-Al-Youm" newspaper. Moreover, a group of young Salafists have decided to target journalist Ahmed Ragab and cartoonist Mustafa Hussein.

On 4 June, "Akhbar-Al-Youm" published on its home page a satirical cartoon dialogue, which was written by Ragab and drawn by Hussein. The cartoon depicted a man who expressed his desire to become a Salafist, wear a jilbab and grow a beard for personal gain. The cartoon did not directly criticise the Salafist groups or Islam; rather the critique was addressed at persons who join these groups and hide behind religion for personal and political gain. Nevertheless, it was viewed by some Salafists as defamatory to Islam and as a sarcastic comment on Salafism.

As a result, on 4 June, the young Salafists accused Ragab and Hussein of "defaming Islam and religions, mocking Salafists, inciting public opinion against them and attacking the personal lives of Muslim women wearing the Niqab". In response to the cartoon, some Salafists subsequently hacked the paper's website and replaced its home page with a statement outlining the reason for their actions.

"It is totally unacceptable for any person or group to impose censorship on innovation and freedom of expression in the same way that the Mubarak regime used to suppress free expression and rid itself of its opponents. The Egyptian revolution specifically fought for guarantees of rights and freedoms for everyone, including the right to freedom of expression. The Salafist groups themselves have benefited from exercising their right to free expression, after having suffered the suppression of their speech under the Mubarak regime. And now, instead of defending freedoms which Egyptian people had been deprived of for many years, the Salafist groups are adopting censorship policies. This raises our concern over the rise of Islamists in Egypt, on the heels of the revolution," ANHRI said.

"The Egyptian authorities should take tough measures against website hackers as it is not acceptable to leave the door open for people to punish their opponents by illegally hacking their websites. Everyone should respect the law or else face sanctions," ANHRI added.

ANHRI also asked the Egyptian authorities not to leave the door open for political hesba cases, which were commonly used during the Mubarak regime, and to modify Egyptian legislation to prevent the prosecution of those who innovatively express their opinion.

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