CAIRO: The trial of Nader Gohar, owner of a satellite company, has been adjourned to June 16 in order to correct inaccuracies in a power of attorney.
In a session on Monday the Boulaq Misdemeanours Court requested that the powers of attorney be written in Gohar’s own name rather than in his capacity as the owner of the Cairo News Company (CNC).
This is the second hearing in the case, which began on May 5.
Gohar was charged with importing and owning television equipment and transmitting television broadcasts without permission.
If found guilty, he risks a one-year imprisonment and a LE 20,000 fine.
Gohar – who could not be reached for comment – owns CNC, which provides equipment, production and satellite transmission services to channels, including Al Jazeera and the BBC.
On April 7, Al Jazeera screened images of clashes between police and residents of the Delta town of Mahalla.
The images showed Egyptian security bodies using what rights groups criticized as excessive force against demonstrators protesting increasing food prices.
Hundreds were detained in Cairo and Mahalla on April 6 and 7 during a series of arrests.
Over a month later, at least four individuals are still being held without charge.
On April 17, 35 plainclothes police officers raided CNC’s Cairo office and confiscated equipment which – as it was pointed out in a statement issued by Human Rights Watch on Sunday – effectively prevents it from operating.
The case against Gohar was brought by the state-owned Radio and Television Union a day after the raid.
While CNC’s license expired in 2007, Gohar says that when he tried to renew the license he was told by the Ministry of Information officials that he would have to wait until new regulations were issued, but that he could continue operations in the meantime, said the statement.
Gohar told Human Rights Watch that he thinks CNC was targeted because of its previous collaboration with Al Jazeera.
He thinks that the authorities may believe that CNC provided Al Jazeera with the equipment they used to film in Mahalla, when in fact he did not do so out of a concern that it would be damaged.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) condemned the case against Gohar which they described as “political.
“The individuals who fabricated this case didn’t do a very good job because the equipment they illegally confiscated belongs to French television, for whom Mr Gohar is an accredited correspondent, an HRinfo statement reads.
“CNC works in a lawful fashion and absolutely nothing to do with the main reason why this case was concocted – the images broadcast by media channels of protestors in Mahalla during the April 6 strike.
“Rather than looking for a scapegoat for these images, security bodies should seek out the reasons for this popular anger and for the absolute rejection of the repressive policies used against peaceful protests in Egypt, the statement continues.
Human Rights Watch links the closure of CNC to the recommendations on satellite television broadcasting regulations recently issued by Arab ministers of information during a meeting of the Arab League.
The non-binding document of Feb. 12 entitled “Principles for Organizing Satellite Broadcast and Television Transmission and Reception in the Arab Region, recommends that broadcasters “protect the supreme interests of Arab states and “respect the principle of national sovereignty.
It also states that freedom of expression should be used “wisely and with responsibility.
The document recommends that Arab League member states confiscate equipment, impose fines, and withdraw the licenses from satellite channels which are judged to have violated these principles.
According to the Human Rights Watch statement, three satellite channels have been dropped by Egypt’s state-controlled satellite Nilesat since the adoption by the Arab League of these recommendations.