Monday, October 15, 2007

Quote of the day - Ibrahim Eissa

al Dustour editor in chief, Ibrahim Eissa on the prospect of spending a year in jail:

¨I've found out that I'm allowed to take my iPod," he said cheerfully. "This is progress in the Mubarak era. Yes, they do torture you in your cell, but they allow you to listen to your iPod!"

The quote is taken from Liz Sly´s article - Egypt's media defy Mubarak at their peril (Chicago Tribune) on October 15th. i have been having trouble with the link all morning. Hopefully it will be ok now, but if this continues you can find it on my account. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Ibrahim Eissa is one of seven Egyptian journalists who has been sentenced to prison the last months. Five of them editors of free and opposition papers, basically the Cremé de´la Cremé of the independent press. First among them being Eissa himself, who started a new trend of journalism in Egypt when he launched ad Dustour in 1995.

He was sentenced in a case with his mentor Adel Hamouda of al Fajr, and once upon a time editor of the (not so prestigious any more) prestigious Rose al Yousef, Abd al Halim Qandil, the previous al Arabi and Karama editor and Wael Ibrashy of Sawt al Umma , all of them recieved one year terms.

All of them have also been subjugated to court processes before and in November 2004 Qandil was fetched away in a car in broad daylight by goons, driven into the desert, beaten , told to shut up and quit writing about his masters and finally being stripped naked before leaving him in the desert.

The other three journalists are from the liberal opposition party paper al Wafd. The editor of the paper Anwar al-Hawari, and journalists Mahmud Ghallab and Amir Othman received a two year sentence for "damaging the image of justice" , meaning that they misquoted the Minister of Justice , Mamduh Marei, claiming he said that 90 percent of Egyptian judges were not up to the job. Marei is of course the one who was put in the office after having proved himself as the chairman of the Presidential Elections Commission during the September 2005 election, were he took the opposite stance of the reform minded judges, and he´s current task is much about defusing that movement.

Another editor faces trial, for writing about President Mubarak´s health, Muhammed Sayyid Said of the newly launched secular leftist al Badil.

On the 23rd of February 2004, President Mubarak pledged to change the law, so that journalists don´t risk receiving prison sentences for libel. Although parliament amended the press law in July 2006, it did little, if any change to journalists chances to conduct proper journalistic work, without feeling threatened by possible prison sentences. In a week´s time it will be three years and eight months since President Mubarak´s promise. In July 2006 and again last Sunday, 22 papers of the free press stopped the presses one day, for that principle as well as protesting against the current jailing of editors and journalists.

Ibrahim Eissa is due up in court with yet another case on the 26th of October, with no less than nine charges against him , so much that his lawyer Hafez Abu Saada asked for more time during the opening session on the first of October.

This is a IFEX statement on the sentences mentioned above. Arabist has an audio recording of Eissas speech at the journalists syndicate on September 14th.

I would like to end this post in the same way i started - with a quote by Hafez Abu Saada on the jailing of the four editors mentioned above.

"This is something very unique to Egypt," he said. "I have never seen, at least in the last five years, any country that jails four editors in one day."

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

And on to Accra

The pharaohs did what was expected of them, nothing more, nothing less, when they secured a place in the African Nations Cup yesterday evening by winning in front of an almost empty stadium in Cairo against Botswana. The winning goal in the 1-0 victory, only came after coach Hassan Shehata substituted star strikers Moetab and Zaki halfway through the second half. One of the two who came on the pitch was Ismaili player Muhammed Fadl, who was to play the unlikely role of hero, when he scored with a header in the 76th minute.

After having qualified from a very easy group, they can expect tough opposition in the group stage, and going through will be no picnic in Ghana this coming January-February. But hopefully they will be able to defend the title as African champions and play in the final in Accra on February 10th. The pharaohs won on home soil last February.

The bigger picture however, is the qualifications for the 2010 mundial, and the Egyptian team have the players to pull it off. If they play as a team, they will have a fair chance to be in South Africa in the summer of 2010.

If that happens it will be the third time that Egypt qualifies for the world Cup. It would be sweet to be able to add 2010 to the years 1934 and 1990, i´m sure the heroes from the Italy 90 campaign , first and foremost among them Magdi Abd al Ghani and Hossam Hassan would be equally happy.

Mabrouk to Hassan Shehata and the team!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Ai´d al Fitr 1428

The celebrations in Egypt starts today, some countries got an early start on friday. In Iraq, the ultimate symbolic gesture of reconciliation, the Sunnis and Shiítes celebrating together, was not forthcoming this year either. Sunnis started celebrations at sunset Thursday and their fellow countrymen of the shiíte denomination had to wait an additional 24 hours.

In New York the Empire State Building will go green during aid al Fitr! Thanks to moi for bringing that to my attention!

I´ve been following the last month demonstrations in Burma closely, and was very happy when i found this story in Arabic of Aid celebrations in Burma this year(audio).

A Common Word - a call for dialogue

On the fringes of the Aid al Fitr celebrations an open letter was sent to Christian religious leaders of all denominations, from Muslim religious leaders and scholars of prominence, calling for a Common Word between the Muslim and Christian faiths, among the recipients of the letter was Pope Benedict, the Archbishop of Canterbury and of course Pope Shenouda III and Theodoros II in Egypt.

The letter was a call for greater and common understanding and dialog between the two great religions, to focus on the things that they share , rather than the conflicting views. To use the common ground as a way of promoting peace, pointing to the fact that together the two religions make up more than half of the world´s population.

The most interesting part of this letter is the wide spectrum of the Muslim leaders signing the document, all in all , 138 signatories, from practically all denominations within Islam and a truly global representation to match that.

Among the international Muslim leaders signing are people like the former deputy PM in Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, the Pakistani scholar Akhbar Ahmed, several Grand Muftis , among them from Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Grand Mufti of Istanbul and the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Among others Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, the famous scholar Dr Seyyid Hossein Nasr , the General Secretary of the OIC(Organization of Islamic Countries, Ekmeleddin Insanouglu, Sayyed Jawad al Khoi , Ahmad Kubaisi , the former Prime Minister of Sudan Sadiq al Mahdi.

Among Egyptians signing is Mufti Ali Gouma,Abla Muhammed Kahlawi, Selim al Auwa , Hassan Hanafi and Amr Khaled.

This initiative was a follow up on an open letter from 38 Muslim leaders last September(PDF) in response to Pope Benedict XVI speech in Regensburg.

Hopefully this is one way to foster greater understanding,consensus and trust - and this only one of many similar projects of dialogue. Our own Sheikh Muhammed Sayyid al Tantawi(Sheikh al Azhar) has been trying to help bridging the gap in the last year by opening up for dialogue directly with the Vatican, and President Mubarak met the Pontiff in Rome as one of the first leaders after Pope Benedict XVI claimed the office.

I would like to extend an Aid Mubarak to all my readers on the occasion of Aid al Fitr, or as they say in Indonesia, Hari Raya Idul Fitri!

Go easy on the cookies!

The photo is from the BBC, here are some more photos.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

In solidarity with the free press strike 7th October 2007