Some in Egyptian Government Call for Use of Violence Against Peaceful Protesters

Washington
Freedom House strongly condemns calls yesterday by members of the Egyptian Parliament to use live ammunition against pro-democracy demonstrators and blatant attempts to discredit activists and organizations that support freedom of expression.
 
During the session of parliament yesterday, some members from the ruling National Democratic Party singled out the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) as being among the “motivators” of instability and “agents” of western powers in an attempt to defame and intimidate the organization amid its attempts to legally register a demonstration by the April 6 youth movement.  ANHRI is a member of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange and a leading defender of freedom of expression in the Arab world.
 
“The Egyptian government’s threat to use force against peaceful demonstrators only further increases the likelihood of violence leading up to the presidential election,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “Freedom House calls upon the Egyptian government to live up to its recent declaration that freedom of speech is protected in Egypt by allowing its citizens to express dissenting views in a non-violent manner.”
 
Although the Egyptian government claimed in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that “free speech is the norm” in Egypt, its recent crackdown on protesters and harassment of bloggers strongly contradicts these claims. Alaa Abdel Fatah, a long-time Egyptian blogger, was arrested this morning at Cairo’s airport and was released after several hours. This latest detention is one of many recent blogger arrests including Wael Abbas, Karrem Amer, Abdelrahman Ayyash, Hani Nazir, and Mosaad AbulFagr, underscoring the systematic oppression of freedom of expression.
 
“Detaining bloggers at the airport upon attempts to enter or exit the country has become the regime’s preferred tactic for harassing and intimidating citizen journalists and activists who blog,” said Courtney C. Radsch, Freedom House’s freedom of expression officer and writer of the Egypt country report for the soon-to-be-released Freedom of the Press 2010 survey.
 
Egypt is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2009.
 
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