The Internet In the Arab World
A New Space of Repression?
No Rules, No Limits
United Arab Emirates:
Freedom of expression is missing despite a decision banning imprisonment for press crimes
Journalists fined for "impersonating journalists"
ANHRI denounces the ruling and calls for the Journalists Syndicate to intervene
Cairo October 24, 2009
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), denounced the ruling to fine three journalists at the local "AlBahrawya" newspaper" after charged of practicing Journalism without being members at the Journalists' Syndicate. The network considered that this provision is the best expression of the absurd situation left by the Press Association Law No. 76 of 1970, stipulating the need not to exercise the profession before associating to the membership of the Syndicate.
Meanwhile, the syndicate imposed restrictions on journalists wishing to join and require that a journalist must be appointed and has a news archive. This situation endangers many journalists who practice the profession and make a living from this profession, but had not been appointed at a press institution. Some of journalists practice journalism for long, sometimes up to 15 years without being appointed, and consequently are at risk of falling under this law.
Therefore, ANHRI calls for Journalists' Syndicate or to intervene to abolish or at least modify the Law of the Association, which represents a serious violation of freedom of expression. As well as, this law is totally inadequate to the current political and social conditions. That law has been enacted during the era of the Socialist Union. So it is no longer appropriate for current conditions and government policies that do not adhere to the appointment of graduates. Thus, such different policies do not provide journalists appropriate working conditions that enable them to meet the syndicate rules.
The network considered that provision as a new blow to freedom of expression, which opens the door wide to numerous lawsuits against qualified journalists just because they are not members of the Syndicate.
The Misdemeanors Court of Damanhur fined Dr. Zuhdi al-Shami, Chief Board of "AlBahrawya", a newspaper issued by "Atagamou" political party in Damanhour. Both of Radwa Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Mahmoud Dwyer the reporters of the same newspaper were sentenced to 300 Egyptian pounds fine each. The lawsuit was filed by the journalist Said Hassan, accusing Dr. Zuhdi al-Shami of appointing editors at the newspaper and facilitating their practicing journalism without being registered at the syndicate. He accused both Radwa Mahmoud Abu Zeid and Mahmoud Dwyer of impersonating journalists.
The Attorney General referred the journalists as defendants under article 65 of Law No. 76 of 1970, which provides that any person may not work as a journalist unless his name was on the lists of the Journalists Syndicate and after the approval of the Arab Socialist Union. The law made an exception allowing press institutions to appoint foreign correspondents abroad if necessary. The violation of the Article 115 is punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding 300 pounds or one of the two penalties. The same penalty is also applied to any person who impersonate a journalist, while not registered at the Journalists Syndicate and.
The Legal Aid Unit of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information stressed that the previously mentioned articles are unconstitutional. In particular, Article 65 which violates Articles 47 and 56 of the Constitution. Noting that this article endangers freedom of press, threatening with jail all those concerned with combating corruption in newspaper. The unit also stated that the nature of journalistic work at the local newspapers in Egypt, is mainly volunteering work. The Legal Aid Unit intends to challenge the ruling to the Court of Appeal.