Monday, June 30, 2014

Egypt: Police confiscate 1,000 copies of publication by human rights NGO

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Newspaper issued by IFEX member in Egypt confiscated

6 June 2014

On 14 June, security forces stormed the printing house of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and confiscated the 72nd issue of its newspaper, Wasla. They also detained an employee of the printing house, seized all copies of the newspaper along with the printing supplies.

In contravention of Egypt's Constitution, security forces refused to allow the lawyers present to see the arrest warrant or to inform them of the details of the raid. One of the police officers, however, told the lawyers verbally that the printing house was accused of "issuing a newspaper that calls for the downfall of the regime," alleging that the newspaper is issued by the Muslim Brotherhood. Around 1000 copies of the newspaper were confiscated along with the printing templates.

When a lawyer from ANHRI went to Osim police station, where the employee was being held, the police officers refused to reveal the reasons behind the incident. This, despite the clear provisions in the Constitution which oblige a police officer to inform those detained of the reasons of their detention. It is also clearly inadmissible in the Constitution to confiscate any print publication without a valid warrant.

Wasla newspaper was first published on 1 April 2010. So far, ANHRI has released 72 issues of the paper, which aims at compiling some of the writings of online journalists and activists on social networking sites (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, forums) and publishing them in printed form. 
It is distributed amongst the older generations, people who do not regularly use the Internet, for the purpose of keeping them informed of the opinions and writings of younger generations. When Wasla was first published, it was celebrated by writers and journalists, even the local Egyptian TV channel itself created an episode about it.

Executive Director at ANHRI Gamal Eid said: "The crackdown on civil society has started, and the new regime's intentions have been revealed faster than we expected. It has only been a week since the new president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took over the reins of power and attacks on civil society have already begun. The confiscation of Wasla newspaper and the fabrication of absurd accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood is indicative of the fate of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country."

"The investigation into the case will be conducted today [15 June 2014] marking the official start of the crackdown campaign against civil society and human rights organizations. Whatever the decision of the Public Prosecution in this fabricated satirical case, ANHRI will not halt its activity and is determined to implement of the rule of law no matter what the price is.”

Click here for a list of the accusations brought up against Wasla newspaper and the items seized during the raid.

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