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Egypt26 May 2009

Blogger fined nearly 6,000 euros for accusing chemical company of pollution

فرض غرامة من 6000 يورو على مدوّن لفضحه التلوث الصناعي


Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the size of the fine that a court in the northeastern city of Port Said imposed on blogger Tamer Mabrouk on appeal today as a result of a defamation lawsuit by a private company, Trust Chemical Co., over information about pollution that he posted online.

The court ordered him to pay a fine of 45,000 Egyptian pounds (5,759 euros), more than 15 times the 340-euro fine he was given at the original trial on 20 January.

“The behaviour of the judicial authorities is inacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Mabrouk’s appeal hearing was rushed through and his case was not examined. The fine that has been imposed is an insult to free expression. It is clearly designed to ruin him and to deter him from expressing his views or taking any position. We call for his conviction to be quashed.”

No Trust Chemical Co. representative attended today’s hearing, at which the judge upheld Mabrouk’s conviction. His lawyer said: “Tamer Mabrouk was tried under criminal law although he committed no crime. This is a dangerous decision that sends a negative message about the future of free expression. We have decided to try to get the ruling quashed.”

The company sued Mabrouk over a June 2008 entry in his blog (http://elhakika.blogspot.com) accusing it of dumping waste in Manzalah Lake and the Suez canal that could be hazardous to humans and animals. He is the first Egyptian blogger to be sued over a blog entry.

Interview with Tamer Mabrouk

-  Why did the article on pollution give rise to so many problems?

“Many important people such as the prefect of Port Said are fully aware of this company’s swindles and the pollution it causes. But they refuse to talk about it, probably as a result of pressure (...) Corruption is a major problem in Egypt and explains everything. Everything takes place in a flagrantly illegal fashion and the embezzlement of public funds is commonplace nowadays (...) A deal was recently reached between Trust Chemical Industries and the Egyptian government. One of the agreement’s key clauses was the creation of 2,500 jobs for Egyptian workers. This condition was never respected but officials did not do any check.

-  Your article was censored. What was the reaction to this story?

“The authorities told me they could do nothing. They said the company was too powerful. They advised me to turn to the Egyptian courts. My attempts to do this were unsuccessful so I decided to post my article online. My work constituted an uncompromising condemnation of their methods, of the system of corruption, pollution, human rights violations and arbitrary dismissals that had become frequent within the company (...) I brought a lawsuit against the company myself, requesting its closure as a source of pollution. The court ruled that it was not competent to hear the case. At the same time, Trust Chemical Industries asked me to withdraw my suit in return for a sum of money. When I refused outright, they demanded that I issue a retraction or a correction that would have been tantamount to an apology on my part.”

Video (in Arabic)




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