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SANEF condemns the closing down by Egypt of broadcaster Al Jazeera in Cairo

The SA National Editors’ Forum is deeply shocked at the manner in which the Egyptian Government which professes to be intent on reform to meet the protests of thousands of its citizens against authoritarian rule has closed down the operations in the country of the highly respected Middle Eastern broadcaster, Al Jazeera, and harassed its journalists by detaining and then releasing them.

The cries from the citizens of Egypt are for democratic government, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement and President Hosni Mubarak has indicated that he is responding to those demands by changing his cabinet and claiming to be intent on introducing reforms.

The main demand of the protesters is for freedom of expression, yet the Egyptian Government has closed down one of the region’s most important exponents of freedom of expression, Al Jazeera. This act suggests that the government has no intention of effecting meaningful reform but seeks to prevent its people from having access to accurate news and information about events in Egypt and elsewhere.

Sanef has also noted that the government has also cut cellphone communication and access to the internet, all important means of communication.

Sanef condemns the government’s actions not only because it is unconstitutional conduct by Egyptian and African Union standards and involves an assault on journalistic freedom but because it prevents the public of Egypt from knowing what is going on.

Sanef congratulates Al Jazeera for continuing to maintain its news services – and especially its bulletins about the situation in Egypt and the Middle East – to other parts of the world. Sanef also calls on the Egyptian Government to restore electronic communication and to remove the ban on Al Jazeera immediately