Within its efforts in documenting violations of freedom of expression and cases of censorship affecting all artistic productions, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression has issued its 4th report on “Freedom of thought and creativity in Egypt” during the period from July – December 2010. The report includes documentation of the most important cases of censorship in Egypt during that period regarding freedom of media or artistic productions of any form, i.e. cinema, theater, etc. The report is a reflection of the situation in Egypt before the 25th of January revolution and highlights developments that indicated a major change in the horizon.
During the above mentioned period, the state, represented by the ministry of mass media and communication has tightened its fist over all media channels to markedly reduce the space for freedom of expression, especially after the last parliamentary elections which were characterized by massive rigging.
The report begins with a summary of the legislative structure governing visual and auditory media, both independent and governmental, in reference to the Egyptian constitution and international conventions. It begins with the provisions of the Egyptian constitution related to freedom of opinion and expression in general and those related to freedom of the press and media in particular.
The following section addresses provisions of international law related to freedom of media, emphasizing articles 19 and 27 of the international declaration of human rights and article 15 of the international covenant for economic, social and cultural rights.
The report then moves to the reports of the UN special rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression in addition to the regional protection of media freedom based on the provisions of the African charter for human rights and rights of peoples. It then addresses in detail media freedom in Egyptian legislation and concludes this legislation section analyzing freedom of radio broadcasting and civil monitoring, the right to use frequency spectrum, right to communication and finally right to media diversity.
The report then proceeds to the details of the trials and court rulings related to censorship of artistic production, where we have documented 79 cases of violation which is much higher than the first half of the year where the number of violations was recorded at 35 cases only.
An example of such case is the ruling to close channels Wesal, Safa, El Rahma and El Hafez and endorsing the closure of channels El Nas, El Khalijeyya and el Sehha wal Gamal.”
In addition there is also the legal case demanding the burning of the publications by scholar Gamal el Banna and the refusal to register El Shaer publishing house in the commercial registry.
The report then addresses violations committed against various forms of creativity, including cinema and theater: the following movies: “the situation is under control”, “the blindfold”, “they loved each other” and “the beauty of the soul” were rejected by the censorship authorities as well as two drama pieces: “the world of puppets” and “from the desert”.
For the TV and satellite sector this was the worst period, involving the closure of 12 satellite channels claiming they advocate pornography, witchcraft and fanaticism; as well as temporary prevention of broadcast by el Hewar and Fara’in channels, cutting transmission for El Rahma channel and close monitoring of Cairo today, Mahatet Masr, Dawam El Haal, 100 mesaa, El Hayat El Yom, 10 pm, Masaa El Anwar. The censorship ranged between threat of total closure to monitoring content and demanding change of content.
Soap operas and TV series were equally affected. Censorship hit against “Zahra and her five husbands”, “Shame” as well as Abed Karman and “assassination of the sun”. Furthermore, social events and seminars were also under scrutiny, where security authorities prevented a lecture by Dr. Mohamed Selim el Awa, a festival organized by Egyptians against discrimination as well as harassing Dr. Mohamed El Baradei in his campaign for change.
The press and publication sector witnessed a hacking of the website of Al Youm El Sabe’e newspaper, prohibition of the publication of a book titled “Witness over the Brotherhood”, monitoring of bulk news text messages and refusal of ten books by the claim that they advocate for thrive and superstition. The period surrounding parliamentary elections also witnesses a cut of internet connection as well as blocking of some websites.
AFTE, monitoring several violations by censorship authorities during the period from July – December 2010 calls upon lifting of security control over all forms of media in Egypt to ensure an adequate climate for the practice of democracy. It also calls upon relevant authorities to dissolve the censorship department over artistic productions and to replace it with an authority concerned with the classification of productions according to age of producers, stressing that exercising freedom of opinion and expression is a basic human right as well as a main objective of the 25 January revolution.