17 March 2007
Press Freedom Alerts:
Latest Press Freedom News From the Region

In Morrocco, Azzedin Gaiz, a correspondent for the national daily Yawmiyat Ennass, filed a complaint to the prosecutor's office in the city of Khénifra on 30 January 2007. According to reports, Gaiz had received several anonymous calls in the past month, telling him to stop writing if he wanted to live. The prosecutor opened an investigation after hearing a recording of one of the threats, which Gaiz had kept on his mobile phone.

In Tunisia, the offices of the National Council for Liberties (CNLT), was put under siege by a group of plain-clothed policemen on 8 March 2007. The aim of the siege was to prevent journalists from attending a press conference held by the CNLT in cooperation with Reprieve, an international non-governmental organisation. Policemen tried to drag Muhammad Hamrouni, a journalist at the El Mawkef newspaper, out of the building that houses the Council. The journalist managed to escape only when members of the CNLT came to his rescue. Sobhi Smara, a journalist at the Muwatinun newspaper, was kept away from the building by force and was threatened by the policemen.

Also in Tunisia, journalist Mohamed Fourati was reportedly sentenced in absentia to 14 months in prison by the Appeals Court in the city of Gafsa on 9 March 2007. Fourati was sentenced for two articles he wrote in 2002, one of which was said to prove he belonged to an opposition group. The other was about fund-raising for the family of a political prisoner.

In Egypt, the four-year prison sentence handed to Abdel Karim in February 2007 was upheld by the court of Alexandria on 12 March 2007. Suleiman, an Egyptian blogger, was sentenced for insulting Islam and President Moubarak.

Also in Egypt, Judge Abdel Fattah Mourad called on the Egyptian government to block 21 Egyptian websites and blogs, as reported by the Rozal Youssef newspaper on 2 March 2007. Judge Mourad, head of the Alexandria Appeals Court, called for the shutdown of the following websites: Nahdat Misr and Al-Ghadd newspapers, Human Rights Info, Kefaya, Good News Company, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Iraqi News Agency, in addition to blogs such as Annals of the Trees Owner, One of the Humans, Egyptian Girl, The Nation is Fatima, and other human rights and news websites. According to the article in Rozal Youssef, Judge Mourad considers that these sites contain material that tarnish the reputation of Egypt and insult the Egyptian president.

In Iran, the authorities reportedly arrested a number of journalists of Ahwazi Arab origin last week. Only one name has been made public, that of Mohammad-Hussein Falahieh, editor-in-chief of the Aghlam-ol-Talaba newspaper. Falahieh has reportedly being subjected to both physical and psychological torture in the notorious Section 209 of the Evin Prison, which is run by the Intelligence Ministry.

Sources for the alerts:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France

Observatory of the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia,Tunis

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo), Cairo, Egypt

British Ahwazi Friendship Society, London, UK