Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hala Mustafa, Egyptian journalist, challenges union over Israel 'warning'


CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt's journalists union issued a warning to a magazine editor on Tuesday after she received the Israeli ambassador in her house, prompting her to cry foul over freedom of the press.
Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief of Al-Demoqratiya magazine, stirred up a controversy in September after receiving Israeli envoy Shalom Cohen.
A five-member panel, citing union rules barring support for normalisation of ties with Israel, issued a warning against Mustafa, rather than taking more serious action.
"We limited ourselves to issuing a warning because the commission's job is not to punish or seek vengeance against a colleague but to guarantee decisions are taken in a democratic manner," said panel member Gamal Fahmi.
Any act of normalisation with Israel by union members can lead to a reprimand or even expulsion.
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.
In 1979, Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but there continues to be a generally hostile popular attitude towards anything implying normal relations between the two neighbours.
Separately on Tuesday, the panel suspended for three months the deputy editor-in-chief of the government-owned weekly October for having had dinner with an Israeli diplomat, Fahmi said.

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