Novelist Alaa Al-Aswany’s monthly seminar in Alexandria has been banned by security forces due to objections about its content, the writer said on Tuesday.
The seminar titled “Conspiracy theory: between reality and illusions” was supposed to be held on 10 December at the Jesuits Cultural Center in Alexandria.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the decision to ban the seminar, describing it as the latest in a string of incidents targeting Al-Aswany’s freedom of expression, including banning him from appearing on state-owned television. He also stopped publishing his weekly article for Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper in June 2014 after being accused of treason by media figures after he criticised President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s presidential campaign.
In a phone call with ANHRI, Al-Aswany stressed that there were dozens of newspapers and satellite channels that speak on behalf of the state and defend its positions, while one citizen cannot exercise his right to freely express his/her views or discuss issues of significance to the country.
“The published work of Al-Aswany has been widely celebrated, so it is a shame that the Egyptian government is trying to prevent him from writing and organising discussions,” said Gamal Eid, the head of ANHRI.
Al-Aswany is a dentist and novelist who has authored a number of well-known books, as well as many journalistic articles. Among his most prominent works is the 2002 novel Yacoubian Building, which has been translated to several languages. In 2007, he published the novel Chicago, based around a group of Egyptians studying in the United States.
He was an outspoken critic of the Mubarak regime, and has criticised the current state of freedom of expression in Egypt.
A week ago, Egyptian researcher and journalist Ismail Alexandrani was detained by the prosecution pending investigation into charges of publishing false news and belonging to a banned group.
Solidarity campaigns and condemnations rapidly emerged after Alexandrani’s arrest, with a large number of international and local organisations calling for his release and criticising the government’s move amid what is perceived as a crackdown by security forces on journalists and opposition figures.