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EGYPT: Newspaper banned after accusing actors of homosexuality

October 7, 2009 |  9:26 am

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The weekly independent newspaper, Al Balagh Al Gadid, has been banned after reporting that three prominent Egyptian actors were caught in a prostitution network for homosexuals.

In a story published last week, the paper reported that actors Nour El Sherif, above, Khaled Aboul Naga and Hamdi El Wazir were questioned by police for being part of a homosexuals' network, which was allegedly discovered last month at the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo.

While police sources denied the story, the newspaper said the actors were investigated by authorities before they bribed officers and the hotel management to disregard the whole incident and keep it quiet. The actors were outraged by the report, saying the newspaper's story was groundless. They filed lawsuits against the publication's chief editor, executive chief editor and one of its reporters.

In a statement Monday the Egyptian Higher Council for Journalism said it decided to ban the broadsheet after considering the reports forwarded to the general prosecutor by the actors, who stressed that Al Balagh Al Gadid was aiming to damage their reputations.

Most public figures in Egypt want to avoid being connected to homosexuality, which could damage their popularity among Muslim fans.

El Sherif didn’t seem bothered with the accusations of belonging to a prostitution network, but was frustrated to be described as a homosexual. "Naming me among other homosexuals defamed me and all Egyptian artists. The Journalists' Syndicate has to be firm with anyone trying to insult the dignity of Egyptian artists," he said.

Egyptian law does specifically criminalize homosexuality. Nonetheless, 21 people were sent to prison for homosexual activities in 2003. At the time, the court said that the verdict was to make an example for anyone else trying to spread immorality and promiscuity in the Egyptian society.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Actor Nour El Sherif. Credit: Al Youm Al Sabee

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