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TV channels and books banned amid increasing censorship

The State Council court banned two satellite channels on Wednesday deemed mouthpieces for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. In two unrelated incidents, religious authorities called for the banning of a belly dancing show on another channel, and censors prevented the import of three book titles.

For the second time since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, the state council court upheld the canceling of licenses for Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (live broadcasts from Egypt), along with that of the Rabea Channel, which is based in Turkey.

These two channels can no longer broadcast on the Egyptian communications satellite, Nilesat.

According to the court’s legal findings, published on the BBC’s Arabic website, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr “incited foreign countries and powers against Egypt and transmitted inaccurate information … with the aim of harming national security.”

The court further alleged that the channel “sought to sow discord between the populace and Egypt’s Armed Forces,” with the intention of “toppling Egypt.”

According to state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm, the court said the channel was supporting “the foreign occupation of Egypt,” whilst describing the “June 30 revolution as a military coup.”

Lawyer Mamdouh Tamam, who filed this case for the banning of the Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr channel claimed, according to state-owned Al-Ahram news portal, that the channel instigated “crimes against the Egyptian populace, and sowed sectarian strife between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims,” as well as “promoting hatred” and “violating domestic law.”

While the entire Al Jazeera network has been banned from operating in the country, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr continues to broadcast from its headquarters in the Qatari capital Doha.

Exactly one year ago, on September 3, the State Council’s administrative court ordered the closure of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, along with three opposition Islamist channels: Al-Yarmouk, Al-Quds, and Ahrar 25. Three other Islamist satellite channels, Al-Hafez, Al-Nas, and Misr 25, were forced to shut down on July 3, 2013.

On June 23, Giza Criminal Court sentenced two staff members from Al Jazeera International to seven years in prison, while a third staffer was sentenced to 10 years.

The Rabea Channel, named after the site of a pro-Morsi sit-in that was forcefully dispersed on August 14, 2013, was also found guilty of broadcasting false and intentionally misleading information by the State Council.

According to Akhbar Al-Youm, the Rabea Channel was accused of “fueling demonstrations and inciting students to protest and engage in violence so as to disrupt the educational process, as well as inciting against security forces and seeking to destabilize the homeland.”

The lawsuit against the Rabea Channel was filed by pro-regime lawyer Samir Sabry.

While these two channels have been banned from broadcasting on the Egyptian satellite Nilesat, they may be viewed on other satellite providers.

Also on Wednesday, Dar al-Ifta — Egypt’s top body of Islamic jurisprudence — called for the banning of belly dancing show, “Dancer,” on Al-Qahera wal Nas satellite channel.

Citing a statement from Dar al-Ifta, Associated Press reported that objections to the show include its “corrupting morals,” and that it “serves extremists who take such matters as justification to promote the idea that society is fighting religion.”

On Tuesday the Al-Qahera wal Nas channel announced that it might postpone the show for political reasons. However, no official governmental decision has been made. 

Another example of censorship includes the banning of three books on Saturday from import and circulation, including, “Introduction to Semiotics,” by Egyptian author Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid, “Al-Mabrouma,” by Lebanese author Rabee Jaber, and “In Praise of Love,” by French writer Alain Badiou.

In the mid-1980s, the Islamic thinker and author Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid was found guilty of apostasy. On this basis a court ruled that his wife should divorce him.

The three books are all published by Al-Tanweer, an Egyptian publisher based in Lebanon.

Al-Tanweer’s director, Sherif Joseph Rizk told private owned Al-Shorouk newspaper on Wednesday that no clear reasons were provided by the censorship authorities as to why they had stopped the circulation of these books in Egypt.

Rizk added that the books were handed-over to Al-Tanweer on condition that they would not be sold until a final decision is made next week regarding their distribution.

Lawyer Ahmed Ezzat, Director of the Legal Unit at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression emphasized to Al-Shorouk newspaper that the new Egyptian Constitution enshrines freedom of thought and opinion (Article 65) along with freedom of literature and artistic rights (Article 67). Accordingly, he said, “no confiscations should be carried out except via a prior court order.”

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