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EGYPT: Journalists questioned, forced to clear Mubarak reports with military

May 20, 2011 | 10:25 am


Military prosecutors called three Egyptian journalists in for questioning this week after they reported on an alleged deal to offer amnesty to ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The three, an editor and two reporters at the independent Cairo-based El-Shorouk newspaper, were questioned and released Thursday after they signed a pledge to not report further on issues "which may cause confusion in the streets, without clearance from the armed forces," according to Egypt's state news agency and a rights activist.

The newspaper had reported earlier this week that Mubarak planned to release a recorded appeal for amnesty, offering to turn over all of his assets to avoid a trial. They cited unidentified Egyptian and Arab officials, as well as an unnamed military official who said a mediation deal was in the works.

The report sparked demands for justice from protesters and a denial from the country’s military leaders.

The paper published a column Thursday saying it had no intention of "polarizing" society, but did not rescind or correct previous reports. It said it would stop covering the issue until the "mood allows for a free discussion of the issue."

On Friday, Gamal Eid, a human rights activist, said military prosecutors were breaking Egyptian laws that protect free speech in an effort to silence criticism of the Supreme Armed Forces Council, which has been running the country since Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11.

“Journalists and human rights activists have a right to criticize,” Eid said."The real danger is when journalists stop writing and obey these orders. It’s illegal and it’s a problem if journalists agree with that.”

Mubarak has been held at a hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in connection with allegations he ordered the killings of protesters and was involved in widespread corruption.

Bringing Mubarak to trial has become a focus for protesters, who gathered by the hundreds once again in Tahrir Square after Friday prayers to hoist signs showing Mubarak dressed like a convict, behind bars.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo


Photo: Egyptian protesters hold flags and a sign showing former Egyptian President Abdel Nasser, left, during a protest in Tahrir Square on Friday. Thousands gathered in the square to demand the release of detained activists and the prosecution of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family. Credit: Mohamed Omar/EPA.