Saturday, April 24, 2010

From Egypt: 1001 Nights Publishers Face Jail Time in Move by Lawyers

(many thanks to NW for passing this along):

A prominent group of lawyers in Egypt have recently invoked a "decency" censorship law in their call for a number of Egyptian publishers to be jailed for publishing the 1001 Nights.

The publishers have been producing a series of popular books relating to Egyptian heritage and the 1001 Nights is one of them.

The law invoked is known as article 178 which carries with it fines and even up to two years of jail time for publishers of indecent materials. The move by the lawyers is seen as particularly troublesome because they have had some moderate success in the recent past in invoking this law and punishing other publishers in the country.

press release below from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information website (wiki about the group:

"Cairo, April 22nd , 2010

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said, today, that the failure of the Egyptian government to take a clear stance regarding the religious and political Hesba cases has encouraged more religious extremists and publicity seekers to join the “Actio popularis” team. Some lawyers filed a communiqué to the Prosecutor General in order to confiscate A Thousand and One Nights book and imprison its publishers at the general authority of culture palaces affiliate to the ministry of culture, claiming that the heritage script ” is offensive to public decency”.

On 17/4/2010 , a number of lawyers filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General, calling to open an investigation with Ahmad Megahed, Gamal Ghitani , writer, Gamal Askary , Saad Abdel Rahman and Susan Abdel Rahman who are responsible for publishing ”Zakhaer” (treasures) series issued by the general authority of cultural palaces at the ministry of culture. The lawyers filed their complaint as per article # 178 of the penal code, which fines and punishes “with imprisonment for a period of two years anyone who published literature, pictures, offensive to public decency”. Naturally , the book would be confiscated, too. So far ,two parts of A Thousand and One Nights have been published and the lawyers considered them as evidence against the complained.

This penal communiqué , which included an attack on the freedom of expression and creativity, describing those two rights as “a phenomenon” belongs, in form and subject, to a long list of political and religious Hesba cases. Such cases are currently an easy way to publicity as well as a legal means to prohibit writers, journalists and artists. The looseness of government in facing these Hesba cases, which are a real threat to freedom of expression and creativity in Egypt, has only one explanation ; giving the government a free hand to pursue challenging writers and journalists.

Silence of the minister of culture on such cases is encouraging to this actio popularis team. Earlier in April 2009, Ibdaa magazine , a ministry publication, was suspended by a court order and the minister took no action. Eventually , the magazine was allowed to republish by another court order.

Gamal Eid, ANHRI executive director said, “Demanding the confiscation of a heritage book and a creativity piece , such as A Thousand and One Nights, is a crime in essence . We will not be silent regarding these cases . ANHRI legal aid unit for freedom of expression will lead the defense of these writers and intellectuals who are exposed to an unfair crackdown by those publicity seekers. These writers and intellectuals insist on handing over historical and cultural treasures to the Egyptian reader and making them accessible to the Egyptian citizen just like other citizens in other countries that respect freedom of expression and freedom of creativity. ”

Here is the link to the above press release:

And a news story about the incident (in Arabic) from the newspaper Al-Masri Al-Youm (Egypt Today):

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