Newsletter No 29 23 May 2006
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

» In Algeria, President Abdelaziz Buteflika granted an amnesty to journalists convicted of defamation and insulting officials on 3 May. However, several journalists from major newspapers will not benefit from the measure since they have made appeals or their cases have been postponed. Only journalists who are already serving a sentence can benefit from the amnesty.

» In Egypt, several journalists were assaulted by police forces on 11 May, while covering protests in support of two judges who had criticized last year’s parliamentary elections.

Al-Dustour journalist Abeer Al Askary was reportedly taken to a police station and beaten.

Journalists working for Al Jazeera were also reportedly prevented to enter the High Court to cover the hearing of the two judges, and saw their cameras confiscated or damaged.

According to reports, the equipment of a Reuters cameraman was also confiscated while a stringer for the agency was beaten.

» In Iraq, three journalists of the independent Kurdish weekly Hawlati are facing criminal prosecution for defamation. A criminal court in Sulaymaniyah sentenced editor-in-chief Twana Osman and former editor Asos Hardi on to six months of suspended jail terms on 2 May.

The case relates to an article the weekly published in October 2005 saying that Kurdish Prime Minister Omar Fatah ordered the dismissal of two employees of a telephone company after his line was cut due to unpaid bills. According to the court, it has been the regional communications minister who ordered the dismissal. However, the Prime Minister had ordered the minister to undertake an investigation after his line was cut, the newspaper said according to reports.

The third journalist, Hawez Hawezi, was reportedly arrested and transferred to jail for writing an article criticizing his treatment during an earlier arrest in March this year. He was first held and freed on bail following an article where he criticized the two major parties in the region. He has been accused of defamation for both articles.

» In Morocco, Driss Chahtane, editor the Al Michaal newspaper received a one-year suspended prison sentence and was fined with 100,000 dirhams (USD 11,000) by an appeal court in Casablanca for allegedly libeling Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The weekly published a cartoon of Bouteflika along with a satirical article about his private life in June 2005. According to reports, the lawyers of Al Michaal refused to address the court considering that the conditions of a fair trial had not been guaranteed.

» In Tunisia, security forces detained journalist Naziha Rajiba, also known as Om Zied, for four hours at the Tunis airport on 4 May, and confiscated her personal documents, according to reports. Rajiba was returning from Cairo where she had attended a conference commemorating the World Press Freedom Day, 3 May. She is the co-editor-in-chief of online newspaper Kalima, banned in Tunisia.

» In Yemen, the Yemen Observer, Al Rai Al Aam and Al Hurriya were allowed to reopen on 2 May after three months of suspension for publishing the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. The editors-in-chief of the newspapers are still accused of “offending Islam.”

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
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France