AFTE issued the first semi-annual report on freedom of thought and creativity in Egypt during the period from January to June 2009. This report docum ents the condition of freedom of thought and creativity in Egypt and the most important developments in the period from January to June 2009. The report also presents the constitutional protection for freedom of thought and creativity and the commitments on which the Egyptian government ratified under international conventions. It also addresses some notes on the Egyptian legislative structure through the laws and decisions regulating control of freedom of thought and creativity.
The report contains a presentation of the most important court verdicts and prosecutions issued during the first half of this year on freedom of thought and creativity. The report notes with deep concern the continuation of issues of political arithmetic and the seriousness of these issues that afflict intellectuals and creators. The report reviews the most important of these court verdicts, including the Administrative Judiciary Court`s verdict canceling the license of Ibdaa magazine (creativity) on the ground of publishing a poem “blasphemes against God”. Then, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled the re-issuance of the magazine once again. The court did not accept the appeal to stop and close business of the El-Mogez for press, printing and publishing, as well as the ruling of the Misdemeanor Court of Edwa in Al-Minya condemning Mounir Said Hanna Marzouk, who was sentenced with labor for three years in prison and a bail of one hundred thousand pounds.
The report also reviews the trials relating to freedom of thought and creativity, including the trial of Magdi El-Shafei author of Metro and its publisher Mohamed El Sharkawi, and the case of abolishing the broadcast of “Al-‘alam” and “Al-Manar” channels and suspending the running of the movie “Hassan wi Morkos” (Hassan and Marcos).
The report also highlights the continued interference of administrative apparatuses to impose its authority in controlling creativity, such as the film by Rujina Basaly, the student of the Institute of Theatrical Arts, Private Property, the rejection letter of which was obtained by AFTE from the Central Administration of Audio-Visual Control “Public administration for the surveillance of film and video film”. Same with the screenplay of overthrowing the government, which the control stipulated changing its name to get the license, along with refusing the treatment provided for the film Beneath the Veil on the pretext that it is incompatible with the values, laws and ethics of the Egyptian society.
The report also reveals the absence of the independence of public administration for controlling works of art “the Ministry of Culture” towards the security agencies and government bodies which is shown by the report through the proceedings of Dukan Shehata (Shehata’s Shop), a film directed by Khaled Youssef and Awlad El ‘Am (the Cousins) directed by Sheriff Arafa and the sequel of Nems Bond.
The report warns from continued subjection of creative works to religious criteria, the report monitored the issuance of a press release by the Al-Azhar Scholars Front, an NGO, to stop the screening of the movie Dukan Shihata (Shehata’s Shop), as well as a warning issued by some lawyers to the Prime Minister; Minister of Culture; the Grand Imam of Al Azhar; Ashraf Zaki, the chairman of Egyptian Actors’ Union, actress Elham Shahin; actor Ahmed Al-Fishawi and director Kamla Abu Zekry demanding them to stop shooting Wahid Sifr (one : zero) and to prevent its screening and withdrawing it from movie theaters because it affects the Christian faith. Moreover, the Coptic Orthodox Church expressed its displeasure over awarding, Dr. Youssef Zeidan the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which is the Arabic version of the British Booker prize for literature for his novel ’Azazel. Moreover, Archbishop Bishoy, Secretary of the Holy Synod, wrote his book entitled Response to Dr. Zaydan and his novel ’Azazil. This book is based on holding the author accountable on the basis of religious criteria.
The report presents the actions of the Editors in Chief of some state-owned newspapers acting as controllers and preventing the publishing of articles of some authors. The report includes the incident of omitting Saad Hagras’, Chief Editor of El ‘Alam El-Youm, and journalist Yehia Qalash’s articles by the editor in chief of Al Gomhuria newspaper for criticizing the performance of national newspapers in Al Dostour newspaper. This was repeated with Ahmed Al-Sayed El-Nagar, an economist at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, when the editor in chief of Al Ahram prevented publishing his article in the issue of May 15th 2009 for criticizing the policy of Al Ahram in an article in Al Dostour. Moreover, the report monitored issues related to fatwas during the reporting period, the most distinctive of which was of Adel Imam, the artist, in which it was stated that his killing was legitimate for his remarks during the war against Hamas in Gaza.