This week's jailing of Egyptian author Ahmed Naji over a book deemed too explicit is further proof that Egypt is squandering the gains of the Arab Spring and regressing to the same authoritarianism that sparked the revolution, the International Publishers Association (IPA) warned today.
Ahmed Naji was handed the maximum two-year sentence on Saturday for 'violating public modesty' with his novel, The Use of Life. An Egyptian citizen brought charges against the author after an excerpt from the novel was published in magazine Akhbar al-Adab. The magazine's editor was also fined.
Naji's conviction is further proof of the Egyptian government's contempt for free expression, which it has consistently demonstrated in recent months through various steps to gag authors, publishers and artists.
The IPA has received reports that Cairo-based novelist Alaa Al Aswany, an outspoken critic of restrictions on basic freedoms in Egypt, has also experienced state pressure to silence him.
Al Aswany, who will address the IPA's International Publishers Congress, in London, from 9–12 April 2016, has had his reputation publicly smeared and is encountering increasing government obstructions to his freedom to lecture and publish.
IPA President Richard Charkin said, "It's clear that the Egyptian authorities are putting the squeeze on authors and publishers. Outlets for Al Aswany's writing and lectures are being stifled, he has been the subject of smear campaigns and like many others in Egypt he is feeling threatened by the government's growing tendency to criminalize peaceful forms of dissent and expression. The IPA stands firm with Ahmed Naji, Al Aswany, and other Egyptians who feel that the freedoms won in Tahrir Square five years ago have been cynically stolen from them."