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Publishers, writers watch from behind bars as Cairo Book Fair wraps

Egypt's restrictive cultural environment marred this year's Cairo International Book Fair with the recent arrests of publishers and closures of community libraries and bookstores.

With a record 900 publishers participating and a massive turnout of 3.5 million visitors, the 51st Cairo International Book Fair wrapped up on Feb. 4 and has been hailed by organizers as a resounding success. But it has also been criticized by free speech advocates for banning some controversial titles and excluding a number of publishers. 

"The censorship at the [fair] is part of a wider state of repression and muzzling of free speech and expression in Egypt that has seen hundreds of websites blockedcommunity libraries shut down and dozens of journalists imprisoned in recent years for no crime other than expressing a dissenting viewpoint," lamented Gamal Eid, head of the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

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