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Controversial weekly hits the stands in Egypt again after seven-year ban

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By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD | Associated Press
March 24, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt - A controversial Egyptian tabloid that was banned seven years ago is back in print, but despite a vastly different political environment, the question remains: Will it survive this time?

Al-Destour appeared on the newsstands Wednesday, the first time since it was banned in 1998 when it was accused of sensationalism for publishing a dubious statement from an Islamic group containing threats against three Coptic Egyptian businessmen.

The magazine began its second life in Wednesday's edition as critical as it was in its first incarnation, something the editor Ibrahim Eissa promised would continue.

"The similarities between the defunct Iraqi Baath party and the ruling (Egyptian) national party, are glaring and scandalous," read the headlines of one story.

"I'm not going to make concessions. I don't care at all if they close the paper again," Eissa told The Associated Press Thursday. "What I care about is influence, not continuity."

Eissa, in charge when it was banned, claimed the government decided to reinstate the magazine "as a picture of political reform they are talking about these days."

Eissa said he worked on 10 different newspapers that were either shut down or met with trouble with government censors after Al-Destour was banned.

"We grew up, yes, but our dream hasn't gotten smaller. Maybe our country did shrink, diminished and humbled, thanks to ... its leaders," Eissa, 39, wrote in his column Wednesday. "Despite that, it's our country that we are trying to love despite being highjacked by fear."

Just like when it first appeared on newsstands ten years ago, Al-Destour remained "against corruption, terrorism, and Israel," Eissa said, although he added that it wasn't against the West.

"I really believe that the reform comes from abroad, and that international pressure is behind the reissuing of Al-Destour and Kifaya movement," he said.

Kifaya an Egyptian opposition movement that demands an end to Mubarak's rule and calls for changes in the constitution.

Al-Destour, which means "Constitution" in Arabic, broke political, social and religious taboos when it came into print. It's sharp language earned the ire of censors and its copies were confiscated three times. But circulation continued to soar, reaching around 152,000 copies in the last week it printed before being banned.

Eissa said the reception to the 100,000 copies that went out on Wednesday "has been more than positive."