World's newspapers condemn attacks on Egypt's independent media
October 15, 2010
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have written to the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to express concern over recent attacks on independent media.
It refers specifically to the dismissal of Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief and founder of the private daily Al-Dustour, 10 days ago.
He was fired when the paper was acquired by new owners, who include the media mogul and opposition Al-Wafd party leader al-Sayyid al-Badawi. The owners had given assurances before the sale that they would not interfere in the newspaper's editorial line.
During his career, Eissa has had 65 cases filed against him for allegedly violating Egypt's press law.
In 2006, he was sentenced to one year in prison - later reduced to a fine - for publishing a story about the misuse of public funds.
In 2008, he was sentenced to two months in prison for "publishing false information and rumours" about Mubarak's health, though he later received a presidential pardon.
The letter, signed by WAN-IFRA's president, Gavin O'Reilly, argues that Eissa's dismissal "appears be part of a larger pattern of intimidation of critical journalists" ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections.
Alaa al-Aswani and Hamdi Qandil, columnists at the private daily Al-Shuruq, stopped writing their columns last month after the newspaper's management warned them about external pressure to tone down their content.
Television programme Al-Qahira Al-Yawm, presented by journalist Amr Adeeb, was also suspended last month for "political reasons".
The letter, which reminds Mubarak of the press freedom principles enshrined in the 2007 "Declaration of Table Mountain", concludes:
"We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to halt the campaign of intimidation and censorship of independent media so that the press is able to report free from government pressure.
We ask you to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of press freedom."