TV boss charged over Mubarak poster images

Nader Gohar of the Cairo News Company has been charged by an Egyptian court for broadcasting attacks on posters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during riots in April.
Egypt, protests.
Pictures of Mubarak's portrait being trampled were kept out of the official Egyptian media. R.R.

BEIRUT, May 6, 2008 (MENASSAT) – The case stems from the April 6 riots in the textile town Mahalla, where thousands protested against rising prices and the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

Some of the protesters at the Mahalla rally teared down posters of Mubarak and trampled his picture under their feet – a powerful image that Egypt managed to keep out of the national government-controlled media though not out of the international media and the blogosphere.

Now, a Cairo court has charged Nader Gohar, owner of the Cairo News Company, with illegally transmitting images of the protest which ended up being broadcast on the pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera.

According to Egypt’s Radio and Television Union, Gohar's company filed the images without having the proper license for providing satellite feed facilities.

The TV boss countered by telling the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) that Al-Jazeera bypassed him and transmitted the images to the companys headquarters in Qatar from their satellite phones. 

Speaking to AFP from Paris yesterday, Gohar emphasized that he has been falsely accused and that he has not breeched Egypt's broadcast laws – a crime that could land him behind bars for up to five years. 

"I think I have been falsely accused of having cooperated with Al-Jazeera satellite channel on April 6 in Mahalla, and of having allowed the channel to use my station to air the footage of protesters tearing down pictures of Mubarak," he said.

Gohar has previously said that it is Al-Jazeera who the Egyptian authorities are really after, but that his company took the hit since it is an "easier target" than the Emirati-based news giant. 

"The government doesn't like what Al Jazeera says in their broadcasts, but at the same time it won't shut down their office. So they bother people like me because I give Al-Jazeera the technical facilities they need to broadcast. It is an indirect way of limiting Al Jazeera's work," Gohar told the Christian Science Monitor.

Gohar is due in court for another hearing on May 26.  

Meanwhile, the court has ordered the offices of Cairo News Company to be searched. Five satellite dishes and a vehicle have been impounded. 

Gohar said he previously had a license but that it had recently expired. His request to the court to be given a few days to complete his paperwork was rejected. Gohar's lawyer has reportedly been refused access to his legal file.