Press release

October 23, 1996

CHRLA expresses it concern over the confiscation of al-Destour and the Middle East Times

The Center for Human Rights Legal Aid (CHRLA) is deeply concerned with the confiscation of the weekly newspaper al-Destour from the printing press early this morning. Al-Destour is registered in Cyprus, so the confiscation was carried out according to instructions issued by foreign press censors in Egypt.

Ibrahim 'Eissa, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, says the confiscation was carried out without any reason being declared, but he thinks it is related to an alleged protest letter presented two weeks ago by the Israeli government to the Egyptian authorities. The letter included a strong protest against Egyptian journalists' criticism of the practices of the Israeli government regarding the peace process and the violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. According to Mr. 'Eissa, the Israeli Government presented a list of 63 Egyptian journalists, including some of al-Destour's staff, accusing them of threatening Egyptian-Israeli relations.

What's alarming is that the confiscation of al-Destour came just three days after the Middle East Times' most recent issue (Vol. XIV, No. 42) was banned from entering the country by the foreign press censor.

According to the information received by CHRLA, the Middle East Times was banned because it contained an article related to the 15th anniversary of Mubarak's presidency. Despite the fact that the editors of the newspaper decided to cut the article, negotiations with the authorities have not yet succeeded in lifting the ban on this issue or even in allowing a limited number of copies to be distributed.

CHRLA condemns these actions which break the Egyptian government's obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Human Rights, and asks the authorities to present an official explanation to the newspapers concerned. CHRLA also repeats its calls on the Egyptian government to repeal all restrictive legislation which allows such measures to take place.

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