Reporters Without Borders deplores Ibrahim Issa’s dismissal as editor of the leading daily Al-Dostour for insisting on publishing an op-ed piece by Mohamed El-Baradei, the former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and potential opposition candidate in next year’s presidential election.
His firing has coincided with the end of Baladna bel Masry, a current affairs programme that he hosted on a privately-owned TV station. No reason has been given for the decision to take it off the air.
Reporters Without Borders is concerned at the possibility of a return to tighter control over the media in the run-up to next month’s parliamentary elections and the presidential elections scheduled for 2011. Freedom of expression and publication is fundamental, especially in a pre-electoral period.
Issa was told on 4 October that he was being by dismissed by Al-Dostour’s new publisher, El-Sayed El-Badawi, over El-Baradei’s proposed article, which was pegged to the anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The publisher, who heads the moderate opposition party Al-Wafd, had vetoed the article to avoid provoking the country’s military and political leaders.
Journalists at Al-Dostour immediately went on strike in protest at the injustice of Issa’s dismissal. El-Baradei’s article has meanwhile been posted online (http://dostor.org/).
Another popular current affairs programme, Al-Qahira Al-Yom, was dropped by the privately-owned satellite TV station Orbit TV at the end of last month. Like Baladna bel Masry, it focused on political and social issues but Orbit TV insisted that it was taken off the air for losing money. Media Production City, the production company that made it, reportedly rejected a proposal for deferring payment of the money it is owed.
Always an outspoken journalist, Issa was sentenced to two months in prison in 2008 for “insulting” President Hosni Mubarak by the referring to the octogenarian leader’s health in his programme. Thanks to a presidential pardon, he did not have to serve the sentence.