The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum have written to the Egyptian president to express concern over recent attacks on independent media, including the dismissal of Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief and founder of the private daily Al-Dustour.
The full text of the letter is below:
His Excellency President Hosni Mubarak
President of Egypt
12 October 2010
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News
Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000
publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than
120 countries, to express our serious concern at recent attacks on
independent media, including the dismissal of Ibrahim Eissa, ahead of the
forthcoming parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections.
According to reports, Mr Eissa, editor-in-chief and founder of the private
daily Al-Dustour, was dismissed on 5 October within 24 hours of the
transfer of Al-Dustour to new owners, including media mogul and opposition
Al-Wafd party leader al-Sayyid al-Badawi. The new owners had given
assurances before the sale that they would not interfere in the
newspaper's editorial line. After his dismissal, Mr Eissa reportedly said
that the paper's new owners had asked him not to publish an article
written by Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International
Atomic Energy Agency and leader of a political reform movement. Within
hours of his refusal to remove Mr ElBaradei's article, Mr Eissa was
relieved of his duties. Mr Al-Badawi claims that Mr Eissa's dismissal was
related to a labour dispute.
Mr Eissa is the laureate of the 2008 Gebran Tueni Award, the annual prize
from WAN-IFRA that honours an editor or publisher in the Arab region. Over
Mr Eissa's career, 65 cases have been filed against him for allegedly
violating Egypt's press law. In 2006, he was sentenced to one year in
prison - later reduced to a fine - for publishing a story about the misuse
of public funds. In 2008, he was sentenced to two months in prison for
"publishing false information and rumours" about Your Excellency's health,
an offence for which he later received a presidential pardon.
We are also concerned that Mr Eissa's dismissal appears be part of a
larger pattern of intimidation of critical journalists ahead of the
elections. Alaa al-Aswani and Hamdi Qandil, columnists at the private
daily Al-Shuruq, stopped writing their columns last month after the
newspaper's management warned them about external pressure to tone down
their content. Television programme Al-Qahira Al-Yawm, presented by
journalist Amr Adeeb, was also suspended on 25 September. Mr Adeeb
claimed that the programme was halted
for "political reasons".
We bring to your attention the Declaration of Table Mountain, endorsed at
the 60th World Newspaper Congress and 14th Editors Forum in Cape Town in
June 2007. The Declaration of Table Mountain, among other things, calls on
African states to promote the highest standards of press freedom in
furtherance of the principles proclaimed in Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and other protocols and to provide
constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.
We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to halt the
campaign of intimidation and censorship of independent media so that the
press is able to report free from government pressure. We ask you to
ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards
of press freedom.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum