Newsletter No 9 06 December 2005
Press Freedom Alerts:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

»In Egypt, several journalists were reportedly attacked, harassed and threaten on 20 and 26 November while covering the ongoing legislative elections that begun on 8 November.

According to the reports, on 20 November Los Angeles Times correspondent Hossam El Hamalawy was beaten by nine plainclothes security agents in the northern province of El Behaira.

On the same day, police detained photographer Hossam Fadl of the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm for seven hours in the eastern province of Suez, while reporter Abdel Hafiz Saad of the independent weekly Al Fajr was arrested in the Nile Delta region of Bandar Tanta and taken to a police station where he was reportedly severely beaten.

On 26 November, BBC reporter Mohammad Taha was allegedly hit by a police officer. Security agents prevented Marwa Gadallah of Dubai Satellite Channel from entering a polling station. Mohamed Al Bolok of Al Jazeera and his crew were briefly detained at a police station. Reuters correspondent Tom Perry was also taken to the same police station, where his camera’s memory card was confiscated.

Asmaa Mohamed Ahmed Hraiz of the opposition weekly El Karamah was arrested by police outside a polling station in the district of Shoubra El Kheima north of Cairo. A policeman confiscated her camera and mobile phone and allegedly threatened to rape her. Two police women then reportedly beat her unconscious and left her for dead in a park in the centre of Cairo.

Abdel Baseer Hassan of the BBC was prevented from entering to two polling stations in Alexandria, while AFP photographer Cris Bouroncle was prevented from working by policemen outside closed polling stations in the district of El Mahmodeya. A policeman outside a polling station in El Mahalla threatened Associated Press correspondent Maggie Michael with violence if she did not leave the place.

Also on 26 November, four journalists with the pro government daily Al Akhbar, Afaf El Sayed, Ahmed El Dessouqi, Khaled Ghamal and Amir Lashin, were insulted, attacked and detained by police in the province of Qalyobeya.

»In Somalia, reporter Ahmed Mohammed Aden has been jailed since Monday following his recent online story claiming that a faction known as the Jubba Valley Alliance has been importing arms in violation of the 2004 peace agreement and a United Nations arms embargo, the Committee for Defending Journalists reported.

The faction, which controls the southern city of Kismayo, is holding Aden and has accused him of posting "false information" in an article on the Gedonet Online Web site. Aden also works for private radio station Jubba FM in Kismayo and is a prominent member of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

»In Yemen, a court imposed a fine to the opposition weekly Al Thawry of one million Yemeni riyals (5,500 US$) on 19 November for defaming two government officials. The newspaper already faces 13 defamation charges for criticizing the authorities and risks being closed down if convicted on any one of them, according to reports.

The court banned Al Thawry journalists Fikri Qassim and Salahaddin Al Dakkak from writing for six months. The sentence was suspended but could be implemented if the journalists are convicted of a future offense. The court ordered the paper to print an apology in three successive issues to the two officials.

The trial of Abdullah Ali Sabri, Editor-in-Chief of the weekly Sawt al Shoura, opened on November 19. Sabri is accused of defaming Deputy Interior Minister Mohamed Al Qawsi by writing that the minister had ordered prison officials to intimidate a jailed journalist. If convicted, Sabri faces a year in prison and a ban on writing in the press.

Several journalists have been attacked or threatened and opposition publications have suffered legally harassment in the last months in a crackdown on the media from the Yemeni authorities. Yemeni officials allege that journalists are unprofessional and write stories based on gossip and rumors.

The Union of Yemeni Journalists, the Commitee for Defending Journalists and Reporters Without Borders has expressed their alarm for the deteriorating press freedom situation in the country. Critics say the crackdown intends to stop critical reporting before the next year’s presidential elections.

Sources for the alerts:
Arab Press Freedom Watch (AFPW), London
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels, Belgium
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Canada
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, Austria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France