Newsletter No 12 27 December 2005
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

»In Egypt, journalist Mohammed Yousef is apparently facing legal harassment by the authorities for writing about corruption in the “International Cultural News” newsletter that he publishes, according to a report from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Hrinfo).

The Abdeen appeal court has postponed Yousef’s trial appeal 1 February 2006. The journalist is appealing a six-month prison sentence for publishing the newsletter without license.

According to the report, the case is one of a series made by a single police officer. Writing about corruption has made him a target for many lawsuits and violations such as kidnapping and threatening.

»The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take urgent action to ensure that the recent murders and attempted murder of journalists in Lebanon are investigated by the United Nations.

Since the UN launched an inquiry into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, car bombings have killed Gebran Tueni, managing director of the daily Al-Nahar and Board Member of WAN, and his fellow Al-Nahar columnist Samir Qassir. Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation talk show host May Chidiac was maimed in another car bombing. They were all known for their outspokenness against the Syrian government and its allies in Lebanon.

In its letter to Anan, CPJ welcomes “the fact that the Security Council has linked the Hariri probe with other murders and attempted assassinations in Lebanon, including those of prominent journalists. We hope the resolution will quickly pave the way for a comprehensive investigation that sheds light on those behind these appalling attacks.”

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last week authorizing the International Independent Investigation Commission now probing the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri to "extend its technical assistance" to Lebanese authorities for their investigations into attacks on journalists and other political figures over the past year. It also called on Annan to "present recommendations to expand the mandate of the Commission to include investigations of those other attacks."

CPJ calls on Anan to “immediately present recommendations to the Security Council for the expansion of the mandate of the Commission and to ensure that the investigations into the murder and attempted murder of journalists is incorporated into its mandate.”

»In Morocco, authorities have blocked the US-based website Anonymizer that allows internet surfers to avoid censorship. According to Reporters Without Borders, the blocking of the website came a few days after the press freedom organization recommended it to access to Sahrawi sites censored by the Moroccan government.

»In the United Arab Emirates, freelance journalist V. M. Sathish was briefly arrested and had his passport confiscated in Dubai on 13 December for allegedly libeling a jewelry chain by reporting that it ordered its employees to shave their beards and moustaches, according to reports.

Sathish, who writes for several English-language news media, was summoned by the Dubai prosecutor’s office on 13 December, interrogated and detained for several hours over a report in the Khaleej Times daily on 22 August. The report said that the Alukkas chain of jewellery stores had told its 400 employees they would henceforth all have to be clean-shaven. The chain reacted to the article by bringing a libel action against Sathish.

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