Newsletter No 28 03 May 2006
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

» In Egypt, Hussein Abdel Ghani, the head of Al Jazeera’s office in the country was arrested on 26 April and released the following day on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (USD 1,700). He was charged of “propagating false news” while covering the bomb attacks in Dahab, which killed at least 18 people on 24 April.

Authorities arrested him and took him to Cairo after he reported that unidentified people had assaulted a police station northeast Cairo. The Egyptian Interior Ministry denied the attack and accused Ghani of spreading chaos.

Also in Egypt, journalists Saher Al Gad and Ibrahim Sahari were reportedly arrested on 26 April while covering demonstrations in support of two judges that said the November parliamentary elections were fraudulent.

The journalists, working for Al Geel and Al Alam Al Youm newspapers respectively, were accused of “disturbing public order”. The state prosecutor decided on 27 April to extend their arrest for 15 days, according to the reports.

» In Iraq, radio journalist Qussay Kahdban was shot to death by gunmen on 22 April in Baghdad, according to reports.

Kahdban, who worked for the local radio station Al Bilad, is the 88th journalist or media assistant killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to international press freedom organizations. Twelve of them have been killed in 2006.

» In the Palestinian Teritories, journalists have been attacked twice this month by Israeli soldiers, according to reports.

On April 17, Nasser Ishtayeh and Abdel Ruhman Khabeisa of Associated Press, Jaffar Ishtayeh of Agence France-Presse, and Abdel Rahim Qusini and Hassan Titi of Reuters were shot at by Israeli soldiers while covering an Israeli raid and the clashed with Palestinian in Nablus (West Bank). No one was injured.

The journalists were reportedly standing beside an AP vehicle that was clearly marked “Press” and wearing phosphorus green vests labeled “Press.” A spokesperson of the Israel Defence Forces said the army was investigating the incident.

On April 22, Reuters cameraman Ashraf Abu Shaweesh was hit by rubber bullets when filming clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in Nablus. Shaweesh, was also wearing a vest that identified him as a journalist. He was hit twice after getting involved in a verbal confrontation with a soldier, according to reports.

» In Tunisia, freedoms of expression and of the press remains well below international standards five months after the World Summit on the Information Society, a Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) mission said. The mission met with various government representatives and Tunisian civil society members from 18 to 22 April 2006.

While it was noted that in some small-circulation newspapers there is now an unprecedented amount of balanced reporting of local issues, the larger circulation official press continues to lack balance, the mission said. Journalists who were interviewed asserted that self-censorship due to government intimidation and pressure is still rampant.

The mission was denied a visit to prisoner of conscience Mohammed Abbou - jailed for opinions expressed on the Internet.

Mohammed Abbou has stopped the hunger strike he began on 11 March to protest his prison conditions, despite the fact that he is subject to harassment in his prison cell and has not even a mattress on which to sleep, the mission said.

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