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Egyptian opposition says state TV blocks its ads

By on October 26, 2010

Egyptian state television has refused to air advertisements for the opposition Wafd party, the party said on Monday, signalling a squeeze on opposition campaigning before a November election.

“We were informed the day before yesterday that Egyptian television has refused to air our advertising although it is paid for,” said Wafd spokesman Mohamed Sherdy.

He said print shops working for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had been asked not to print Wafd campaign literature.

“Print shops are scared now to print anything for us,” he said. “Why should I go to a print shop and he says ‘I’ll print for you but please come at three in the morning, like a thief’? What’s this? What type of life are we living here?”

Sherdy said privately owned television channel Mehwar had at first refused to air Wafd’s advertising campaign but broadcast it on Sunday.

Government critics say electoral rules and restrictions on opposition groups make it easy for the ruling NDP to dominate Egyptian politics.

The NDP swept most seats in a June election to the upper house of parliament. Rights groups complained of abuses, but the government said the vote was free and fair.

The head of Egypt’s Radio and Television Union said on Monday there were no bans or restrictions on any paid party campaigns but that they had to be pre-approved by Supreme Election Council, the state news agency MENA reported.

Earlier this month, satellite broadcast firms said the telecoms regulator had stopped them offering live feeds to private TV channels, a move government critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before the November poll.

State media officials said the decision to cancel the permits was not a curb on free speech but part of a broader attempt to better regulate independent media.

SLOGANS FROWNED UPON

Wafd last month spurned calls by other opposition groups for a boycott of the elections. The party did not lead a concerted campaign in a 2005 parliamentary vote. It now has 11 seats in the 454-seat parliament.

“Our advertising was allowed in the (2005) presidential campaign,” said Sherdy. “We also had to go through a lot of problems because they didn’t like our slogan which was ‘We Are Suffocated’.”

Wafd lacks a large popular support base but analysts say it could benefit from action by the authorities against the only Egyptian opposition movement that can rally widespread grassroots support, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The head of Egypt’s Supreme Election Council said on Monday that any parliamentary candidate using slogans based on religion, gender or ethnicity — including the Brotherhood’s rallying cry “Islam is the Solution” — will be removed from the candidate list, MENA said.

“There is increasing pressure on opposition candidates, especially the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mohamed Elkatatny, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc. “This is not a free environment to operate in. It is a suffocating atmosphere.”

Political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah said most Egyptian media were geared towards drumming up support for the NDP “because the government belongs to this party and its political, economic and social discourse”.

Pressure on the opposition “will increase in the coming period”, he said.

President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run for a sixth term in office. If he does not, many believe his former investment banker son Gamal, 46, will stand.

Reuters.

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