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Egyptian newspaper confiscated for the second time in two months

Mada Masr | May 12, 2015

A newspaper’s issue is usually confiscated when it is critical of the authorities. However on Monday the annual issue of the private al-Watan newspaper was briefly confiscated due to a headline that was deemed not quite supportive enough of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The newspaper’s front page headline was changed from “Seven entities stronger than Sisi” to “Seven entities stronger than reform.” The report suggests that those entities represent the “deep state” threatening Egypt and resisting Sisi’s efforts to reform the country.

The seven entities, according to al-Watan’s report, included: Corruption, powerful people, businessmen, the Interior Ministry, the media, the unregistered economy and social media.

An opinion article by the newspaper’s managing editor Alaa al-Ghatrify was also censored. In a leaked copy of the banned article, Ghatrify slammed media personnel who are groomed by the state, according to him, to defend the ruling regime and face any criticism directed against state institutions.

The issue was then permitted to publish after amending the headline and removing the critical column. According to a statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI,) “sovereign entities” banned the issue as the original headline implied Sisi’s grip over state institutions was weak.

This is the second time authorities banned an issue for al-Watan newspaper from publishing in the last two months. In March 11, authorities banned an al-Watan issue for including an investigative report detailing the tax evasion of state institutions including the presidency, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Services among others.

Ghatrify, whose article was banned from publishing, criticized the decision on his Facebook account, saying, “This is a country that will never be reformed. Today is another example that we did not move on, we are still on January 24, 2011. Don’t let him think, don’t let him publish, don’t let him be liberated. Just censor and oppress,” he said. None of the newspaper’s editors, including Ghatrify, were available for comment to Mada Masr.

ANHRI stated that censoring the newspaper’s issue is “a direct violation to the constitution and re-imposes police censorship over journalism.”

Similar incidents of censorship have taken place in the past, especially when articles critical to the Armed Forces or the General Intelligence Services have been published.

In October of last year, an edition of the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm was recalled because of an interview with former Intelligence Officer Refaat Gebreel. Al-Masry Al-Youm website editor Ahmed Ragab told Mada Masr at the time that the paper received a phone call from the General Intelligence Services requesting it to halt printing and remove the interview.

Article 70 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, while Article 71 prohibits censorship, stating, “Censorship of Egyptian press and media is prohibited by any means, in addition to confiscation, suspension or closure, with the exception of specific censorship that may be imposed at times of war or public mobilization.”

However, certain laws allow for intervention in the media, especially when it comes to state institutions. A law issued under the presidency of Anwar Sadat states information regarding the General Intelligence Services is a national security secret and its publishing is prohibited except with written approval from the head of the General Intelligence Services. Breaking this law is punishable by six months to five years in prison, in addition to a fine ranging from LE100,000 to LE500,000.

In November, the State Council approved a Defense Ministry-authored bill banning media outlets from publishing news pertaining to the Armed Forces without prior written consent from the head of the Armed Forces or a relevant court.

May 12, 2015 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | ,

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