Newsletter No 14 17 January 2006
Press Freedom Alerts:
Latest Press Freedom Alerts From the Region

» In Egypt, several organizations have expressed their concern over the prosecutor general’s decision to close the investigation on attacks and sexual harassment by government supporters against female journalists covering a referendum to amend the Constitution on 25 May 2005.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said it was surprised by the decision, which the prosecutor general said was grounded on the lack of suspects. EOHR called for authorizing judges to investigate the attacks since they “took place under the eyes of some security officers.” According to reports, a list of suspects and filmed evidence had been sent to authorities.

The Egyptian Journalists Union said it might raise the issue with international tribunals. The Arab Journalists Federation, based in Cairo, has demanded the re-opening of the investigation.

Fifteen female journalists (12 Egyptian and three foreigners) were attacked on 25 May during demonstrations by the opposition movement Kefaya, which called for a boycott of the referendum. According to reports, the attacks were leaded by police and members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NPD). Some of the journalists were covering the demonstrations while others were participating and some were just passing by.

» In Iraq, Kurdish writer Kamal Karim has been condemned to 30 years of prison for defamation. Karim, also known as Kamal Sayid Qadir and who is an Austrian national, was convicted by a state security court in the city of Arbil on 19 December

Karim had published articles on the independent Kurdish website “Kurdistanpost” criticizing Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and president of the Kurdistan region. Karim was arrested on 26 October in Arbil.

Karim has appealed the sentence and went on a hunger strike from 26 December to 4 January to protest his trial. The trial lasted one hour, according to reports, and Karim had only five minutes to confer with a defense lawyer.

Also in Iraq, the US army has released two Iraqi journalists and who had been held several months in Abu Ghraib prison without charges, reported the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat on 16 January.

Ali Mahhadani, freelance photographer and cameraman, was arrested on 8 August 2005, while Majed Hameed, reporter for Dubai-based Al Arabia TV and freelance for Reuters, had been arrested on 15 September 2005.

At least two other Iraqi journalists remain imprisoned in Iraq without being charged: Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, cameraman working for CBS News who was arrested in April 2005, and Samir Mohammed Noor, a freelance cameraman for Reuters who was arrested in May 2005.

International press freedom organizations have expressed several times their concern over the unjustified long-term arrests of journalists carried out by the American forces.

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