Egypt's Watan newspaper stops release of its Monday issue

Ahram Online , Monday 11 May 2015

The paper reportedly had to remove cover story on inter-state frictions before reprinting

El-Watan newspaper had to change the title of the report to “Seven stronger than reform” before it w

Egypt's privately-owned daily newspaper Al-Watan was forced to stop the release of its Monday print edition over a front page story titled “Seven [state and economic players] stronger than [President Abd El-Fattah] El-Sisi,” sources at the newspaper have told Ahram Online.

The paper reportedly had to change the title of the report to “seven stronger than reform", before it was allowed to reprint.  

It is not clear what stage printing had reached at the time of the decision, and whether any copies of the original print edition were lost as a result.

The paper has not released an official statement about the incident.

An image of Al-Watan's original front page for Monday's special third anniversary edition went viral on social media.

The report claimed that seven groups in Egypt hold “stronger” powers than the president.

The paper said these were the interior ministry, the media, "corrupt individuals" who have cost the state “billions in wasted pounds”, the "secret economy", people of influence who behave “above the rule of law”, and businessmen who “lobby against the president."

It is unclear what prompted the decision to stop publication of the original print edition.

The original issue also reportedly contained a column by the paper’s managing editor Alaa El-Ghatrify titled “An officer, son of the palace, writes”.  

In the column, El-Ghatrify charged that the authorities had created a fake writer in one newspaper to write columns supporting the government as part of its effort to exert influence on the public through media.

The column does not appear in the reprinted edition.          

Mahmoud Kamel, a member of the Journalists Syndicate, described the incident as “unconstitutional", calling it a violation of articles 70 and 71 of the constitution, which “guarantee freedom of the media and prohibit any form of censorship”.

“We are before a crime […] against the freedom of the press, opinion and expression,” Kamel wrote on his Facebook page. “If confirmed, it calls for a serious, united and strong stand from Al-Watan and all journalists, starting with the syndicate.”

In March, Al-Watan was also forced to change the content of one of its issues, after it had planned to run an investigative report suggesting that certain state institutions were implicated in tax evasion.

Last month, reports criticising police violence and the mistreatment of detainees were published in a number of local papers, but no issues were confiscated.

Egypt's interior ministry however took legal action against newspapers El-Dostour and Al-Masry Al-Youm after they ran features on police brutality.

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