Reporters Without Borders / Internet freedom desk
Four-year prison sentence for blogger "Kareem Amer"
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned the four-year prison sentence imposed today by a court in Alexandria on Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman for "inciting hatred of Islam" and insulting President Hosni Mubarak in his blog, for which he used the pseudonym of "Kareem Amer."
"This sentence is a disgrace," the press freedom organisation said. "Almost three years ago to the day, President Mubarak promised to abolish prison sentences for press offences. Suleiman's conviction and sentence is a message of intimidation to the rest of the Egyptian blogosphere, which had emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the regime's authoritarian excesses."
Reporters Without Borders continued: "As a result of this conviction, which clearly confirms Egypt's inclusion in our list of Internet enemies, we call on the United Nations to reject Egypt's request to host the Internet Governance Forum in 2009. After letting Tunisia, another violator of online freedom, host the World Summit on the Information Society, such a choice would completely discredit the UN process for debating the future of the Internet."
The organisation added: "This heavy sentence is also a slap in the face for the international organisations and governments that support President Mubarak's policies. It is time the international community took a stand on Egypt's repeated violations of press freedom and the rights of Internet users."
Suleiman, who was arrested on 6 November 2006, got three years for inciting hatred of Islam and one year for insulting the president. The judge dismissed the charge of "spreading rumours liable to disturb the peace" which had been included in the prosecution's indictment. Suleiman's blogs regularly criticised the government's religious and authoritarian excesses. He also criticised Egypt's highest religious institutions including the Sunni university of Al-Azhar, where he studied law.
Egypt is on the list of the 13 Internet enemies which Reporters Without Borders compiled in 2006 (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19603). The government wants to host one of the stages of the Internet Governance Forum, a series of UN-sponsored negotiations about how to regulate the Internet (see: http://www.intgovforum.org/).
On 23 February 2004, the newly-elected president of the Union of Egyptian Journalists, Galal Aref, made an important announcement: President Mubarak had just telephoned him and had formally undertaken to abolish prison sentences for journalists in connection with their work. In effect, he was promising a major overhaul of the laws concerning press offences. Three years later, nothing has changed. Journalists still risk being imprisoned despite the semblance of a reform last year. (For more on this: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21068).
Reporters Without Borders believes that people writing online, like professional journalists, should enjoy the basic right to freedom of expression and it condemns any use of prison sentences to punish offences linked to the publication of views and information.
Read our international blog review and create your blog with Reporters Without Borders : www.rsfblog.org