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Environmental Reporting Becomes Hazardous Work in Egypt, China

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Since May 2009, Tamer Mabrouk has held one of the saddest Tamer Mabrouk.jpgrecords regarding human rights abuses in Egypt. He is the first blogger to receive a fine after a company sued him for having criticized its activities in Lake Manzala, which is connected to the Suez Canal. Mabrouk was fined $8,700, lost his job, and was forced to move out of Port Said where he had been leaving for years.
Mabrouk’s offense was that he blogged about the pollution the Trust Chemicals Company was dumping into Manzala Lake. Perhaps because they were afraid — or corrupt — the local authorities did not investigate the issue after Mabrouk brought it to light. So, with a few clicks, he decided to publish pictures proving the detrimental effect of the Trust Chemicals Company. In June 2008, the company sued him for defamation.

“I tried to sue the company myself to ask for its closure,” Mabrouk said in a video posted on YouTube. “But the local court argued it did not have the jurisdiction to decide on that matter. Meanwhile, the Trust Chemicals Company was offering me money in return for my silence. I turned it down. Now, they want me to publish a denial.”

(You can read more about Mabrouk’s case at the Reporters Without Borders site.)

Environmental Writers Locked Up

Mabrouk is by no means the only person to suffer for reporting about environmental disasters. Reporters in different parts of the world deal with fines, jail and threats as a result of their work.

In China, for example, environmental activists often face repression after they gain the attention of international media. In July 2009, the anti-nuclear activist Sun Xiaodi and his daughter were sentenced to two years in a labor camp for “divulging state secrets abroad” and “publishing rumors.” Their crime? Publishing information online about the contamination of inhabitants of Gansu Province, which was caused by a Uranium 792 mine. Sun Xiaodi also published articles on corrupt officials of the Diebu district. For more than 20 years, Sun Xiaodi, a former worker in the Uranium 792 mine, has been fighting to raise awareness about the contamination.

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