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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

The EOHR Campaign for the Defense of Freedom of Thought and Expression

Preventive detention threatens journalists again

10 February 1999

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) has followed with deep
concern the questioning by the State Security Prosecution of Abbas
Al-Tarabily, editor-in-chief of the Al-Wafd newspaper, the mouthpiece of
Al-Wafd opposition party, and Mohamed Abdel-Aleem, journalist in the same
newspaper. They were summoned in connection with accusations of publishing
false information harmful to public peace and interests, inciting public
opinion, and inciting public servants to leave work or abstain from
performing their duties. These accusations were made in connection with a 
report by the State Security Investigations (SSI) about a story that
appeared on the newspaper's front page last Friday, 5 February, concerning
strikes staged by workers of the public works sector and a number of
governmental agencies. The two journalists were released on bail of LE 500

On 6 February 1999, Al-Wafd newspaper reported to the EOHR that, on the
basis of an SSI report, the State Security Prosecution had summoned
journalist Mohamed Abdel-Aleem for questioning. At dawn on the same day, an
SSI force went to his house and took him to the State Security Prosecution.
During the interroations, he denied the charges brought by the prosecution
and asserted that the published story was true and well documented by
accompanying photographs. In addition, he argued that the story had been
published by many other newspapers. However, he was released on a bail of
LE 500 pending investigations. Nevertheless, on 8 February Abbas
Al-Tarabily, Al-Wafd's editor-in-chief, was summoned for questioning on the
same charges brought against Mohamed Abdel-Aleem.

During the interrogations, Al-Tarabily asserted the veracity of the story
and stressed that none of the concerned bodies had denied what was
published by Al-Wafd and the other newspapers. He added that the story was
published as a warning for fear that incidents would aggravate.

The EOHR believes that the legal provisions upon which the two journalists
were interrogated, i.e. articles 124A and 102 bis of the Penal Code, should
not, by any means, be applied against journalists. These articles are only
applicable in crimes such as distribution of leaflets but not for
publication offenses. With respect to journalists, Press Law no. 96 of 1996
is applied as a general rule. Article 41 of this law states that
journalists shall not be placed in preventive detention in connection with
offences committed by newspapers, except in case of offense against the
president of the republic. Hence, the release of the two journalists on
bail constitutes an erosion of the legal safeguards afforded to

The EOHR also believes that the procedure and the accompanying charge
brought against Al-Wafd's editor-in-chief aim at circumventing a ruling
issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court on 5 February 1995. This ruling
stated that editors-in-chief shall not be held liable for items they had
not written themselves. The EOHR affirms that these procedures constitute
gross violations of the freedom of opinion and expression and the right to
circulate information. They also contravene Egypt's international
commitments as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, which states in article 19, second paragraph: "Everyone
shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include
freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,
regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the
form of art, or through any other media of his choice."
The EOHR is deeply concerned about this case and announces its solidarity
with the two journalists. In addition, it appeals to the authorities to
review all legal provisions that are inconsistent with the Press Law. It
also urges all civil society institutions, syndicates, particularly the
Press Syndicate, political parties, and intellectuals to intervene to
confront such freedom-restricting measures. Finally, it appeals to the
Egyptian Government to abide by its international commitments and fulfill
its responsibility for protecting all freedoms; and to take prompt measures
to stop all practices that curb freedom of opinion and expression and the
right to receive and impart information.

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This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights. Derechos works against violations to human rights and humanitarian law all over the world.