Yesterday AFTE intervened in lawsuit no. 8931/65 filed by some lawyers in front of the administrative court against the minister of mass media and others demanding a stop and cancellation of the decree permitting the broadcasting of the Iranian series “Joseph El Seddki” on some channels transmitting through the Egyptian satellite “Nilesat”. The plaintiffs based their claim on successive fatwas by El Azhar institution enforcing a religious ban on embodiment of characters of prophets in drama, cinema or TV programs. The court decided to postpone processing the lawsuit to the 8th of January 2011 to undertake adversarial procedures against Melody Drama and Kawthar channels and complete procedures for AFTE’s intervention in the lawsuit.
AFTE believes that those kinds of lawsuits constitute a threat to freedom of thought and creativity as well as a violation of the rights of citizens to watch such artistic production and be exposed to the various and different points of view. Furthermore the Egyptian constitution grants this freedom, without any restrictions in article 49. Accordingly the request to stop the broadcasting of the TV series on the basis of thosefatwas constitutes a breach to the constitution, which has often affected freedom of creativity and artists.
AFTE believes that the use of lawsuits to impose censorship on artists or creative works is one of many forms of censorship, except that in this case it acquires a religious character. The motivation of those who file those lawsuits is to impose what is religiously permitted (halal) and what is religiously forbidden (haram) based only on the conclusions of the official religious institution represented by Al Azhar. Examples include the several lawsuits demanding the closure of some Shiite channels such as Anwar and Fadak because they differ from the Sunni tradition; and the lawsuit demanding the burning of the books of “Gamal El Banna” claiming his writings constitute contempt of the Muslim religion.
AFTE also believes that a cancellation of the TV series would constitute a strong blow to the freedom of theater, cinema and TV, all of which are important inventions of humanity, exposing people to different aspects of life. We might agree or disagree with their content but ion any case that content should not be censored or restricted as long as it does not incite hatred and racism.
Finally AFTE refuses the selective logic behind the lawsuits and the demand to impose restrictions on some selected artistic works, since the same plaintiffs had a few weeks ago raised a lawsuit in front of the same court demanding the cancellation of administrative decrees to stop the broadcast of some religious channels. AFTE recognizes a flagrant double standard in understanding freedom, which requires us to defend all artistic works even if perceived by some as contrary to certain religious beliefs. Otherwise freedom of creativity would be void of any meaning, and would be mere ink on the paper of the constitution without reflection in real life.