Newsletter No 10 13 December 2005
Press Freedom:
Latest press Freedom News From the Region

In Egypt, more than 15 journalists were prevented from working while covering the third phase of the legislative elections on 7 December. Journalists working for the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera and the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm were the most affected.

Reporter Leena El Ghadban, who was covering the elections for Al Jazeera, and her crew were reportedly prevented by state security agents from filming inside a polling station in Bandar-Domyat.

The same thing happened to another Al Jazeera reporter, Mohamed Yousef, in Al Aarish, northeast of the capital. A third Al Jazeera crew was harassed in El Sharqiya province. The crew reportedly had to flee under threat of having nitric acid thrown at them.

According to the reports, Al Masry Al Youm photographer Mohamed Maarouf was detained by the police for three hours. One of his colleagues, Mohamed El Saeed, suffered tear gas inhalation and was held for two hours in a government building in Balteem.

Another photographer, Hossam Fadl, narrowly escaped being tear gassed in El Mansoura, near to the capital. Meanwhile, fellow photographer Ahmed El Masry was reportedly attacked and beaten by members of the El Mansoura municipal council.

In the province of El Sharqiya, photographer Ahmed Shaker was doused with petrol by individuals who then threatened to set him on fire if he did not leave immediately.

Finally, Amre Nabil, a photographer working for the Associated Press news agency, had to be hospitalized after being hit by a stone in the eye as he was covering the election in the province of El Sharqiya.

In Lebanon, Gebran Tueni, publisher of An-Nahar newspaper was murdered on 12 December by a car bomb. The World Association of Newspapers expressed its outrage and sorrow on the assassination of Mr Tueni, its Board Member for Middle East Affairs.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of an outstanding, brave, and determined publisher and journalist," said WAN, which called on the Lebanese government to do everything possible to ensure that the killers are swiftly brought to justice.”

The newspapers association also said: “Gebran Tueni knew very well that he was a 'high priority' target for the killers trying to undermine the political process in Lebanon. He nevertheless chose to stay at the helm of his newspaper, which under his leadership was a beacon for independent journalism in the Arab world.

"The world press community has lost one of its great defenders of press freedom and freedom of expression. Mr Tueni's death is a terrible loss not only for his family, friends and colleagues, but for the cause of freedom and hope in the Middle East.

Mr Tueni is the fourth journalist who has criticized Syrian influence in Lebanon to be attacked since the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri; his death follows the murder in June of An-Nahar columnist Samir Qassir.

Mr Tueni was a WAN Board Member for 10 years. In the mid-1990s, he received the WAN "Award for Publishing Achievement" for his courage and perseverance in bringing out his newspaper throughout the Lebanese civil war. He was for many years a leading member of the WAN Press Freedom Committee."

In Yemen, Mohammad Sadiq Al Odaini, secretary-general of the Center for Training and Protecting Journalist Freedom, has been threatened and intimidated by security officers, according to reports.

Al Odaini said he believed he was targeted because of his organization's annual report published last month that accused the authorities of failing to investigate attacks on the press.

According to the reports, on December 5, a man who Al Odaini identified as security officer Asaad Ali Hezam Al Aayawi, pointed a pistol at Al Odaini ‘s head and accused him of being a traitor, the journalist said. On December 8, the same man along with two masked men dragged Al Odaini from his house in the capital Sana'a around 9:30 p.m. and beat him. They tried to enter the house but left after neighbors intervened. The attackers returned later and stayed outside his home until 2 a.m. Al Odaini called the police but they did not arrive until after daybreak.

After the attacks Al Odaini filed a complaint with both the local police and security authorities but they have failed to investigate. Al Odaini said the lack of concern for the first attack encouraged the second, and his family feared more attacks.

According to different reports, government officials and suspected state agents have targeted several Yemeni journalists in recent months with threats, brutal assaults, abductions, and criminal lawsuits in a sharp deterioration of press freedom . None has been held accountable for these acts.

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