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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Egyptian editors punished for talking with Israelis

From the Huffington Post:
Two senior Egyptian editors – one a member of the country's ruling party and the other an expert on Jewish affairs – have been punished by Egypt's Journalists Union for violating its ban on contacts with Israel, in a case that underlines the country's ambivalent policies toward its neighbor.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but relations have remained cool since, with government-to-government contacts dominating links between the two nations.

Cultural exchanges and travel to Israel are officially discouraged by the government, while popular sentiments remain mostly hostile toward Israel because of its perceived oppression of the Palestinians.

Egypt's Journalists Union issued the ban on contacts with Israel in 1985. Yet, many Egyptian journalists have traveled to Israel since and escaped punishment.

On Tuesday, however, the union reprimanded Hala Mustafa, editor in chief of the state-run weekly Democratiya, or Democracy, for meeting with Israel's ambassador in Egypt. Hussein Serag, the expert on Jewish affairs and deputy editor of the weekly magazine October, was suspended from writing for three months.

Asharq Alawsat adds:

The committee "took into account" that Mustafa had "given assurances she was not familiar with the details of this ruling on normalisation. She thought it only applied to travelling to Israel."

He added that Mustafa had agreed to respect the 1981 ruling, something she would neither confirm nor deny.

However, she said she "totally" rejected the warning, telling AFP she might even turn to the courts for redress of what she said was a "moral injury."

"It goes against freedom of expression ... which the union should protect," she added.