STATEMENT: APC condemns imprisonment of pro-democracy bloggers by Egyptian authorities
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, 02 June 2006
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) condemns the unjust detention of free speech bloggers and journalists in Egypt.
Alaa Seif Al-Islam, a seasoned blogger and APC colleague, is one of four Egyptian online diarists being held in detention for criticising the current regime since May 7. In addition, APC has heard disturbing reports about violent actions taken by state security against several of the bloggers who were released from custody last week, only to be subsequently re-arrested. Authorities prevented human rights lawyers from visiting the bloggers -Mohamed el-Sharqawi and Kareem El Shaer– who, according to a local activist and blog posts, had been beaten and tortured on Thursday May 25.
“We were starting to be optimistic after the state security prosecutor ordered the release of 8 last Saturday and then a release of another 5 last Tuesday, so we thought that they will release the rest in the next few days. but last Thursday they kidnapped two of the eight who have been released on Saturday (and actually got their freedom back on Monday). They were severely beaten, one of them was sexually abused and afterwards they were taken to the state security prosecutor who gave them 15 days and refused to transfer them to a hospital or even to let a doctor in to give them first aid, although one of them felt that he had a broken rib and had blood in his urine..” [Testimony from Mohamed el-Sharqawi on his arrest and torture at Tora Prison. http://arabist.net/archives/2006/05/28/a-letter-from-sharqawi/]
Alaa Seif Al-Islam advocates for freedom of speech in his on-line autonomous media ‘Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket’ (http://www.manalaa.net) – a blog that was recently awarded the Reporters Without Borders Special Prize in the Deutsche Welle International Weblog awards 2005. The APC network has worked with Alaa who also teaches local school-children how to use free and open source software in his spare time.
Egyptian bloggers have been recognised internationally for their use of the medium to tell the stories of young people involved in cultural, social and ‘free and open source’ activities. They have created awareness of the remarkable creativity and innovation present in the Egyptian ICT sector. Stifling bloggers does not just reflect a fundamental lack of freedoms – it also limits the contribution that Egyptians can make to the global community.
VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
APC believes that the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) have been violated by the Egyptian Government – a government which in November 2005 became signatory to the World Summit on the Information Society ‘Tunis commitment’ – which both reaffirms the need for states to respect and fully uphold the UDHR and affirms the universality of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"
APC opposes censorship on the internet and states in its Internet Rights Charter that “the internet is a medium for both public and private exchange of views and information. People must be able to express opinions and ideas, and share information freely when using the internet.”
APC NETWORK ON ALERT
The APC network is on alert. Our members are publicising the plight of Alaa and colleagues since the beginning of May 2006 in a number of national campaigns including in Spanish, Hungarian and Croatian.
The conduct of the Egyptian government throws into question their commitment to the Tunis Agenda (emerging from the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society held in November 2005) which states that a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society has to respect and uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If their repression of bloggers continues, the Egyptian government is bound to be subjected to international pressure and criticism at the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in Athens in October 2006.
We believe that the Egyptian government should immediately release all four bloggers currently detained, provide reasons for its actions and explain its violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
APC Internet Rights Charter: http://rights.apc.org/charter.shtml
World Summit on the Information Society Tunis commitment: http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc_multi.asp?lang=en&id=2266|0
Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket: http://www.manalaa.net
“Reporters Without Borders” Special Prize’ in the Deutsche Welle International Weblog awards 2005 went to Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket: http://www.thebobs.de/thebobs05/bob.php?site=winner_kat&katid=18
The Guardian reports on the arrests (May 8): http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,1770311,00.html
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially internet-related technologies. APC’s network of members and partners in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America all support the use of internet and ICTs for social justice and sustainable development.