President Hosni Mubarak yielded to opposition and US pressure to make reforms and said on 26 February 2005 he had asked parliament to amend the national constitution to allow the first presidential elections by universal suffrage, with candidates from other parties. Since he came to power in 1981 and declared a state of emergency, parliament (dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party, NDP) has chosen a single candidate.

Despite a boycott call by the opposition party Kefaya, which accused Mubarak of being biased, the amendment was made and approved by referendum in May on a 53% turnout. The first election under the new rules, on 7 September, saw Mubarak re-elected against a dozen other candidates.

Mubarak then failed to keep his promises, made in 2004, to amend the 1996 press law and decriminalise press offences. To the contrary, three journalists of the independent daily Al-Masry Al Youm, Alaa el-Ghatrifi, Youssef el-Aoumy and Abdel Nasser el-Zouheiry, were each sentenced on 17 April to a year in prison and fined 1,340 euros for libel. They have appealed.

The regime was also responsible for violence against journalists throughout the year. On the day of the 25 May constitutional referendum, NDP activists and state security agents attacked a large number of women, including 10 Egyptian and three foreign journalists, ripping the clothes of some and groping and humiliating them. Some had to be hospitalised.

Such violence increased during the parliamentary elections held between 9 November and 7 December. More than 50 journalists for local and foreign media, including Al Jazeera, Associated Press, the BBC, Los Angeles Times, CNBC, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Masry Al Youm, AFP, El Karameh, Al Fajr, were harassed and jostled.

Self-censorship is also a problem in the country's media and religion, the legal system and the person of the president are taboo topics.


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