CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have increasingly used the emergency law against journalists and bloggers in 2008, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in its annual report released this week.
Gamal Eid, ANHRI chairman discussed the report Wednesday in a press conference headed by Mohamed Abdel Qodous, chairman of the freedoms committee at the Journalists’ Syndicate.
The reason why the report was issued so late, Eid explained, was because of the “overwhelming increase in violations against freedom of expression by police officials.
Eid said violations were committed by police officials who “continue to illegally arrest, kidnap and torture people who express their opinions freely either during protests or in blogs.
The report also condemned the prohibition of public protests.
Eid denounced press bans imposed on court cases in 2008, such as the high profile murder trial of Hisham Talaat Moustafa and the alleged bribery trial involving Shoura Council MP Mohamed Farid Khamis.
He also condemned the trial of the four chief editors who published news about President Hosni Mubarak’s health.
The report revealed that around 34 books were banned by the Islamic Research Center in 2008.
According to Eid, over 800 cases were filed by authors, intellectuals and artists against violations committed by the government against freedom of expression.
ANHRI’s report further stated that in 2008 100 bloggers were arrested, 70 of them reportedly beaten and kidnapped by police officials.
Eid said that in 2008, several intellectuals were accused of defaming Egypt mostly by NDP lawyers who filed lawsuits against them.
“Last year we [ANHRI] discovered that a single NDP lawyer filed 22 cases against journalists and thinkers accusing them of defaming Egypt, he said.
However the report also said that 2008 witnessed some steps in the right direction.
Journalists have managed to contest a new law proposed by the People’s Assembly in 2006 prohibiting journalists from covering stories that could incite rumors, Eid said.
Eid also cited Amr El-Leithy, editor of Al-Khamis weekly newspaper, who won a lawsuit overturning the government’s proposal to monitor private newspapers through the Central Auditing Agency.
He further lauded the decision to make the Journalists’ Syndicate’s investigations committee responsible for investigating journalistic malpractice, instead of the courts.
He finally cited several corruption cases involving businessmen that were exposed by journalists in 2008.
Eid commented on the recent court verdict overturning a two-year prison sentenced that was handed down to democracy advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim for “defaming Egypt’s image abroad.
“This [initial] verdict should not have been handed down in the first place, because the lawsuit against Ibrahim violates the basic citizen’s right to express his opinion which is against the constitution, Eid said.
Eid claims the recent verdict was made to gain American support, especially given the upcoming visit of US President Barak Obama to Egypt next month.