In the first case of its kind since the January 25 Revolution ousted the Mubarak regime, an Egyptian opposition newspaper has been confiscated, reportedly for violating a publication ban concerning the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, a claim refuted by the paper’s editor-in-chief.
Officials at al-Ahram Corporation, which publishes Egypt’s most widely-circulated official newspaper, al-Ahram, and which prints and distributes several independent newspapers, informed the editorial board of the weekly opposition newspaper Sout al-Umma that the printing of the paper’s Saturday issue would be stopped, said Sout al-Umma’s editor-in-chief, Abdul Halim Kandeel.
“We were informed of that after around 100,000 copies had already been printed and some were already distributed,” he said.
Kandeel added that al-Ahram officials did not reveal the name of the body that issued the decision to cease printing, and said that speculation was that violating the publication ban on the proceedings of Mubarak’s trial was the reason for the action.
“It was reported that we did not respect the ban on the confidential testimonies of the five most senior witnesses in the case of killing protestors, and this is absolutely groundless,” Kandeel said.
He explained that the main reason for the action against his paper was that the banned issue contained two stories about the Egyptian intelligence service: “The scandal of Omar Suleiman’s [former chief of intelligence] intelligence” and “Why doesn’t General Omar Mowafi [current chief of intelligence]cleanse the intelligence of Mubarak’s and Suleiman’s men?”
“The reportage includes harsh criticism of the intelligence and criticizes its inefficiency and the fact that is no longer a key player in critical national issues.”
That particular issued, he added, also called upon Mowafi to cleanse the intelligence from all those who worked in it during the past 18 years, when Suleiman was in charge.
“The reportage also included the opinions of judiciary, legal, and political commentators about the efficiency of the intelligence and they all agreed that it is a critical body, but objected to the fact that it is funded by the people’s money and that it failed to tackle the Egyptian revolution properly,” Kandeel said.
He stressed that al-Ahram doesn’t have the right to stop printing and distributing the paper if allegations of the publication ban were true.
“The corporation is not judge to decide. It just provides a print house.”
Kandeel said he contacted several members of the Higher Council for the Armed Forces in an attempt to determine who was behind the order, and they all told him they knew nothing about it and were not given instructions to carry out such a procedure.
Kandeel said his paper has the right to sue al-Ahram and vowed to make the ban a public opinion matter.
“These things can no longer be hidden because of all those satellite channels that report everything, and I will talk on several of them about the confiscation,” he said.
It is noteworthy that Sout al-Umma was confiscated three times by the Mubarak government, the most recent time in 2009.
“I feel very sorry that nothing has actually changed in Egypt,” Kandeel said.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)