CAIRO: Twenty-one different violations have been committed against journalists, writers and bloggers in Egypt in 2009, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
In a press conference held Thursday, ANHRI announced the release of its 3rd annual report on Freedom of Expression in Egypt for 2009. The report was prepared by the Legal Aid Unit at ANHRI in cooperation with journalists and lawyers at press institutions.
“We have been working on the report since August 2009. It is based on cases we supervised ourselves,” Executive Director Gamal Eid told Daily News Egypt.
“Had we published everything we saw, the report would have been far bigger. These are just examples of the committed violations,” he added.
Based on the five-chapter report, the state of freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt is moving from bad to worse towards more restrictions, denouncements and trials.
The report monitored forms of harassment and violations against journalists, bloggers and writers as of 2009 such as sentences, detentions under the emergency law, travel bans, financial penalties, rejections of applications for Journalists’ Syndicate membership and some court rulings on issues of conscience.
A journalist, a writer or a blogger is subject to persecution, imprisonment or fines due to practicing his or her legitimate right to freedom of opinion and expression, the report noted.
Although the Egyptian constitution contains texts in line with international conventions confirming fundamental rights like freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the press and media, the reality is quite different, the report said.
Some laws, the report argued, especially the emergency law and the penal code, have become obstacles to these rights.
The report accused the Public Prosecution of reluctance to investigate reported violations against journalists.
“The Public Prosecution has become one of the entities not reacting seriously towards such violations,” Eid Said.
According to the report, last year ANHRI filed 15 communiqués to the Public Prosecutor pertaining to freedom of expression; only four of them were investigated so far.
Not only does a writer, a journalist or a blogger suffer from the authoritarianism of security services and unjust laws, but s/he has to deal with other forms of religious authority as well, the report said.
Over the years religious authorities (Al-Azhar Institution and the Church) have gained accumulated moral and legal influence strong enough to monitor all kinds of intellectual creativity, the report said.
It has become extremely difficult for any creator to excel in such an oppressive climate where there is mutual relationship between political and religious authorities that interchangeably play the role of the proctor over freedom of expression, the report added.
However, Eid is optimistic about the coming phase.
“Despite all means of suppression, journalists, bloggers and writers still work, practicing their rights and freedom with no red lines,” he concluded.