معنية برصد انتهاكات حقوق التعبير في حق الأفراد و المؤسسات.

Human rights organizations which signed this statement expressed their condemnation of the trial of Magdi El-Shafei, author of the first Egyptian graphic novel “Metro”, and the publishing house which published his book before the Cairo Misdemeanor

Cairo, March 30, 2009

Human rights organizations which signed this statement expressed their condemnation of the trial of Magdi El-Shafei, author of the first Egyptian graphic novel “Metro”, and the publishing house which published his book before the Cairo Misdemeanor
Court on charges of “publication and distribution of publications contrary to public morals”, which threatens the author and the publisher with imprisonment for two years.The facts of the case go back to last April 2008, when the police force broke into “Malamih” publishing house, and confiscated all copies of the book from the house and from the bookstores in which the novel has been displayed without warrant. Two days later, “Malamih” notified the Department of Public Prosecutions which in turn, accused the author and publisher of violating the text of the articles (178, 198 of the Penal Code), which punish “publications contrary to public decency” with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.
 After a few days, in May 2008, human rights organizations were surprised by a lawyer of the National Party, who is known for tracking journalists and political opponents, this lawyer was the one who claimed political ‘Hisba’ against the journalist ‘Ibrahim Issa’, editor of the independent newspaper “Al-Dustour”, launching the same accusations made by the Vice Squad against the publisher and the author, followed by referring the incident to the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Misdemeanors, which represents a serious shift in ‘Hisba’ lawsuits, and a monstrous attack on freedom of creativity in Egypt.
Human Rights organizations defending the author and publisher expressed that “literary criticism is the only way to judge a creative literary work, and the prosecution of the author and publisher in the criminal court is considered a blatant attack on freedom of expression and freedom of creativity.”
It is worth noting that “Metro” is a graphic illustrated story, in the form of a dialogue between its characters using colloquial language in expressing the story of a frustrated person who tries to steal and fails. The Vice Squad found that some words were abusive, although they are commonly used by the public as well as the police officers themselves.
Rawda Ahmed, the lawyer in the legal counsel unit for the freedom of expression in the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said, “If we allowed police officers or clergy to prosecute literary works, that would completely kill creativity and freedom of expression, and the violation of police on freedom of expression in Egypt is not unusual, but the acceptance of the Public Prosecutor to initiate this lawsuit is completely absurd.”
The case is to be considered by the Court of Misdemeanors on Saturday, April 4.
Human rights organizations strongly condemned persecuting a literary text before a criminal court. Meanwhile, the Minister of Culture, who is basically an artist, is nominated for the post of Director-General of UNESCO.
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It is ridiculous how the Egyptian government nominates a person who is unable to protect intellectuals and artists in his own country for such a post.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

Hisham Mubarak Law Center

Association for freedom of thought and expression

Egyptian Society for the promotion of community participation

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