The 23rd of April is considered a symbolic day for celebrating the international book day and the author’s right. In this day Cervantes, Shakespeare, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega passed away in 1616. Also this day is the date of birth or death of many famous authors like Maurice Druon, K Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Pla, Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone to read to renew the respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have paved the way to social and cultural progress of all humanity.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) demanded the Minister of Culture, who is nominated for the office of the General Manager of the UNESCO, to bear the responsibility for protecting the Egyptian writers from the consecutive attacks that aim at restricting their freedom of speech. The Misdemeanour Court in Qasr El Nile is considering the case number 1616 for the year 2008 in which Magdi El-Shafei, author of Metro, and its publisher, Mohamed El Sharkawi, were accused of producing and getting ready to publish and distribute some print outs that are indecent.
This accusation came on the background of producing a novel for Magdi El-Shafei entitled Metro. The security forces attacked the publishing house that is located in Garden City in Downtown and confiscated this novel and they chased the owners of the publishing houses and the libraries in Cairo. They also passed an order to cease selling this novel.
In its Tuesday 7th April 2009 session, the Administrative Judiciary Court also cancelled the license of Ibdaa magazine claiming that it published a poem insulting the Divine, the magazine edited by Ahmed Abdel Muti Hijazi had published a poem by the poet Helmy Salem, entitled Shurfat Leila Mourad (The balcony of Laila Mourad) in its first winter of 2000, after half the quantity of the magazine was sold they reserved the other half, by an order of the Ministry of Culture under the pretext that they affect the belief, and Dr. Samir Sabri ,the lawyer and the plaintiff, considered it as affecting the Divine and disgracing the Holy beliefs demanding in his lawsuit the cancellation of the license of the magazine, in which the poet Helmy Salem was accused of infidelity, espionage, and receiving funds from foreign countries. Sheikh Yusuf Al-Badri filed a lawsuit to refund the value of the Award for Excellence received by poet in 2006 and retrieved its materialistic value after he published the poem “Laila Murad’s Balcony”. Al- Azhar also sent a report to court stating that the poem included “blasphemy and was offensive to God.’’
The AFTE calls the Minister of Culture and the Union of writers to do their roles in the protection of Egyptian Writers who are subjected to violations and trials for their ideas. AFTE warns of the continuation of such violations which reduces Egypt’s cultural and creative status at the global level, especially that Alexandria has been selected as the capital of the book in 2002, coinciding with the launch of the World Digital Library by Bibliotheca Alexandria.