The Sunday edition of the privately owned Al-Bawaba newspaper was confiscated by unidentified authorities for reporting on the disappearance of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who has not been seen since he was convicted of corruption in April.
The confiscation prompted the pro-state Al-Bawaba to accuse Egypt’s security agencies of “irresponsible conduct” in a statement issued late Saturday night.
The daily publication claimed that the state-owned Al-Ahram printing press refused to print Sunday’s edition of the daily paper in compliance with a request from what they referred to as “certain entities,” demanding the removal of a front-page report on the delay in locating Adly, whose escape has prevented the execution of a court sentence issued earlier this year.
The Mubarak-era interior minister was sentenced to seven years in prison in April for squandering public funds during his time in office. Although the case is still open for appeal, Adly is legally obligated to turn himself in before an appeal is filed, or it will be rejected and the verdict will be final. However, despite being under house arrest throughout trial proceedings, Adly was not present when the verdict was issued and police have been unable to ascertain his whereabouts ever since.
Al-Bawaba wrote that it will preserve its right to pursue legal measures against the decision to suspend Sunday’s edition, calling it “irrational conduct.”
The publication was confiscated twice in April, in the days immediately following the Palm Sunday church bombings, for accusing the Interior Ministry of failing to implement adequate security measures to protect the churches.
The confiscation of newspapers in Egypt is unconstitutional according to Article 71 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “times of war or public mobilization” are the only circumstances under which temporary censorship is allowed.
However, Article 3 of the emergency law gives the president the right to seize, confiscate or close publications or print houses if it is deemed necessary. It remains unclear whether the order to confiscate Al-Bawaba on Sunday came from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in accordance with the emergency law.
The Journalists Syndicate has not yet issued an official response to the incident, however, syndicate board member Aboul Seoud Mohamed was cited by Al-Bawaba as saying the confiscation of newspapers is a “continuation of the undermining of journalism and elimination of freedom of expression.”