Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in /home/vanleer/public_html/plugins/system/helix3/core/classes/menu.php on line 89

header1 1140

Cairo October 24, 1999 - Libel Laws in Egypt Carry Heavy Penalty

By Bob Van Leer

  (CAIRO, EGYPT, Monday, Oct. 25, 1999) - This morning our party of four U.S. journalists toured the offices of Al-Abram, the largest newspaper in Cairo and one of the largest in the world.

  It has a daily circulation of 1.3 million and Friday circulation of 1.5 million.  We could think of only three newspapers in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the New York Times) that have a circulation of over a million. 


  5 FuneralBarqueAnd it is not just a newspaper but a publishing and advertising conglomerate employing 12,000 world wide.

  Even with the disparity of size with our newspapers, we felt at home at Al-Ahram.  The general functions and equipment are similar to what all of us do and use.

  Gamal A. G. Soltan, Center for Political and Strategic Studies, gave us a briefing on the paper.  He has an unusual position in a newspaper, a center formed after the 1968 war with Israel which Egypt lost badly, with a purpose of trying to see what went wrong.

  Soltan said Al-Ahram publishes without governmental influence although at times there are subtle political signals. Their effort is to send a message in the least provocative way.

Al-Ahram (which translates to Pyramids) was founded in 1876 as a privately-owned paper.

It was nationalized in this century and until the late 1960's was owned and subsidized by the government.  It is now a non-profit corporation with profits used to improve the newspaper and give bonuses to employees.  It employs 20% of the journalists in Egypt, Soltan said.

  The projects of his center today involve the Mideast peace process and Mediterranean cooperation working for a free trade zone.

A chilling message for Egyptian journalists is a 1996 libel law that has resulted in three journalists being jailed for six months.  A small newspaper accused a government minister of being a Zionist agent.  In court no evidence that this was true was presented, which would have been a defense.


 8 WatchTower Soltan said he personally thinks sending journalists to jail is not the right thing to do.  He said we suggested heavy fines rather than jail.  A protest meeting had a turnout of 800 who signed petitions against the sentence.

  A journalists' committee is preparing an alternative law to reach a compromise.  Soltan said, "For journalists to be imprisoned is a scary thing".

  Soltan said El Ahram has an Internet web page, but so far only 200,000 Egyptians have access to the Internet.

  He said there is no affirmative action at the paper.  There is no conscious decision to have a certain percent of any group.  But he said there were Coptic Christians on the staff and he said, "We have too many women".

  Soltan said the terrorist raid at Luxor in 1997 cost the country $4 billion in tourism revenue, but tourism has now recovered.  Unlike the information we received at Luxor, Soltan said the terrorists who did the killing of tourists were Egyptians.

  Journalists in Egypt need to belong to the Press Syndicate to work.  He said the government has no say in membership in the syndicate.  The syndicate decides on its own members.

Layout Type

Presets Color

Background Image