Cairo: Two senior Egyptian editors - one a
member of the ruling party and the other an expert of Jewish
affairs, have been punished by country's journalists union for
violating its ban on contacts with Israel.
Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief of the state-run weekly
Democratiya, or Democracy, was reprimanded by Egypt's
Journalists Union for meeting Shalom Cohen, Israel's
ambassador to the country.
The Union also punished Hussein Serag, an expert on
Jewish affairs and deputy editor of the weekly magazine
'October', suspending him from writing for three months for
his 25th visit to Israel.
Serag has translated many books from Hebrew to Arabic,
including the latest "Between Tel Aviv and Cairo," a memoir by
Israel's former ambassador to Egypt David Sultan.
In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab nation to extend
diplomatic ties with Israel after a peace treaty was signed.
However, Egypt's journalist union banned any contact with its
neighbour in 1985.
Egypt's Journalists Union justified the reprimand saying
the editors have violated the ban. The reprimand is largely
symbolic and does not lead to further actions.
Mustafa said her reprimand reflected the heavy-handedness
and the meddling in politics of security agencies, as well as
the country's "ambiguous" policy toward Israel.
Many believe Mustafa's reprimand is the punishment for
her criticising policies committee of the ruling National
Democratic Party, headed by the president's son, Jamal
Mubarak, a possible heir to the rule, for 'speaking too much
and doing nothing'.
She said it was "picking at her" since so many journalists
had visited Israel and got away with it.
Serag said all his visits to Israel were approved by the
editor of the October magazine and security officials.
"My field of speciality is Israel and Hebrew. If I don't
visit Israel, how can I understand these people?" Serag said,
adding "This is hypocrisy, pure and simple."
Even as the refusal of Egyptian government and people to
normalise ties, the numbers of joint projects and tourists
from Israel to the country have been on the rise.
Abdel-Mohsen Salama, a member of the disciplinary
committee which punished the two, said the ultimate aim was to
empower the union's disciplinary committee in order to keep
journalists out of the court system and deal violations within
Journalists in Egypt are punished with prison sentences
for libel and other publishing offences.
First Published: Thursday, February 04, 2010, 18:49