Newsletter No 30 22 June 2006
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

» In Egypt, journalists have been assaulted and charged with defamation while others have seen their detention extended. All these developments are related to fraud accusations concerning last year’s parliamentary elections.

Wael al-Ibrashi and Houda Abu Bakr, both reporters for the independent weekly Sawt Al Umma, and Abdel Hakim Abdel Hamid, editor in chief of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated weekly Afaq Arabiya, were charged on 24 May with criminal defamation. They were sued by a judge charged of the electoral commission in the Dakhaliya region following the publication of articles binding judges in alleged vote-rigging in December 2005.

On 25 May, several journalists were reportedly harassed by security agents while covering demonstrations supporting two judges that had also denounced fraud in the elections and were taken before a disciplinary committee. Two journalists from the BBC, and a reporter from Sawt Al Umma newspaper were stopped while driving a car and the attackers tried to pull them out of the car. The aggressors managed to drag out Karim Al Shair, a political activist traveling with the journalists, and beat him before bringing him to a police station. A journalist for Los Angeles Times was pepper-sprayed when he was trying to cover the demonstration.

On 23 May and 21 May, five journalists saw their detentions extended for fifteen days. They had been arrested between 27 April and 11 May while covering the first demonstrations in support of the judges.

» In Iraq, TV journalist Jaafar Ali was shot death on 31 May as he left his home in Baghdad. He is the eleventh journalist of the Al Iraquiya TV Station to be killed since the beginning of the war in 2003. Al Iraquiya is part of the state-run Iraqi Media Network.

Also in Iraq, CBS British cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan died during an attack on the US Military unit where they were embedded on 29 May. The third member of the crew, journalist Kimberly Dozier, was seriously injured.

Also in Iraq, Ali Mashhadani, a cameraman working for Reuters was reportedly arrested by US forces for the second time and released twelve days later. Mashhadani, who had been held without charges from August 2005 to January 2006, was arrested at the US Base of Ramadi when he went there to recover confiscated cell phones on 20 May. No charge was made against him. He was released on 2 June after being held incommunicado for ten days.

» In Israel, Palestinian journalist Awad Rajoub was released on 24 May. He was arrested on 30 November 2005 near the Palestinian city of Hebron and accused of “threatening national security.” An Israeli court freed the Al Jazeera correspondent due to lack of evidence.

» In Jordan, the editors of the weeklies Sihan and Al Mehwar were convicted on 30 May for “offending religious feelings” following the publication in February of the Danish Cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. They were sentenced to two months of prison. Jihad Al Momeni, editor of Shihan, and Hisham Al Khalidi, editor of Al Mehwar, already spent a month in prison when he was arrested in February. The editors, who have appealed the sentence, have been freed pending the appeal.

» In the Palestinian Territories, the premises of the Palestinian National television in Khan Younes (Gaza Strip) were attacked by armed men on 5 June. The station, which is under the control of President Mahmoud Abbas, was assaulted by at least 50 men who were allegedly members of Hamas. The Hamas has accused the station of being bias towards Fatah, the Abbas political group. The attackers beat the station’s staff and fired at the material and in the direction of employees who were forced to leave the building, according to reports.

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