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Egypt bans screening of documentary

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the ban issued against the screening of the premiere of a documentary entitled "Jews of Egypt" due to objections made by the Egyptian National Security apparatus regarding the naming and content of the documentary.

Its film producer, Haytham El-Khamissy, was surprised when his application for licensing was rejected by the official censorship body under the pretext that the film's title is inappropriate. In all stages of production leading up to the screening, the documentary had obtained all the required approvals. The censorship board had also pre-approved screening it at the European Film Panorama festival in September 2012. The banning of the film had dire consequences for El-Khamissy and his fellow director, Amir Ramses, who were both sure to carry out all procedures regarding the premiere screening carefully, including reserving several cinemas for the occasion.

The documentary's storyline revolves around the circumstances under which the Jewish community in Egypt lived during the first half of the 20th century until the end of the 1950s when most of them left. The movie was viewed across cinemas in the United States and was scheduled to be shown in three cinemas in Egypt on 13 March 2013.

"The intervening of security officials to ban the screening of the film, despite the fact that proper approvals were obtained from the censorship board, is a violation of the law and conveys how manifestations of the police state have popped up in all aspects of society in Egypt during the last few decades, especially during the reign of the ousted president," stated ANHRI.

The head of the censorship board was quoted saying that a document from security officials was discovered that rejected the screening of the film a year ago. He also said that, through his communication with security officials meant to solve the problem, he became aware of the security's apprehensiveness at screening the film at this particular time in light of controversial statements regarding Jews delivered by the deputy of the Freedom and Justice Party, Essam El-Rian.

"We regard these justifications irrelevant, as he heads the only body authorised by law to approve the screening of a movie, and the approval has already been issued," said ANHRI.

ANHRI asserted that "all censorship of creative works in terms of content or technical processing is unacceptable. It contradicts with the right to free expression guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution and protected by the international treaties and charters of which Egypt is a signatory. In this post-revolution time, such forms of creative and artistic censorship must be eradicated, and the role of security officials in censorship decisions must be abolished.

ANHRI demands that the film be immediately approved and that investigation be launched into attempts at obstructing the film. It calls for those responsible to be held accountable and calls on legislative authorities in the Shura Council to review the law on censorship according to the principles of the constitution and international treaties.

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