October 25, 2010 / 12:45 PM / 10 years ago

Egyptian opposition says state TV blocks its ads

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian state TV has refused to air advertisements for the opposition Wafd party, the party said on Monday, signalling a squeeze on opposition campaigning before a November election.

“We were informed the day before yesterday that Egyptian television has refused to air our advertising although it is paid for,” said Wafd spokesman Mohamed Sherdy.

He said print shops working for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had been asked not to print Wafd campaign literature.

“Print shops are scared now to print anything for us,” he said. “Why should I go to a print shop and he says ‘I’ll print for you but please come at three in the morning like a thief’? What’s this? What type of life are we living here?”

Sherdy said privately-owned television channel Mehwar had at first refused to air Wafd’s advertising campaign but broadcast it on Sunday.

Government critics say electoral rules and restrictions on opposition groups make it easier for the ruling NDP to dominate Egyptian politics.

The NDP swept most seats in a June election to the upper house of parliament. Rights groups complained of abuses, but the government said the vote was free and fair.

Earlier this month, satellite broadcast firms said the telecoms regulator had stopped them offering live feeds to private TV channels, a move government critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before the November poll.

State media officials said the decision to cancel the permits was not a curb on free speech but part of a broader attempt to better regulate independent media.

Wafd last month spurned calls by other opposition groups for a boycott of the elections. The party did not lead a concerted campaign in a 2005 parliamentary vote. It now has 11 seats in the 454-seat parliament.

“Our advertising was allowed in the (2005) presidential campaign,” said Sherdy. “We also had to go through a lot of problems because they didn’t like our slogan which was ‘We Are Suffocated’.”

Wafd lacks a large popular support base but analysts say it could benefit from action by authorities against Egypt’s biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run for a sixth term in office. If he does not, many believe his former investment banker son Gamal, 46, will stand.

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