Freedom of the press under attack in Egypt

Freedom of the press under attack in Egypt
3 min read
05 May, 2015
Comment: Freedom of the press remains a concern in Sisi's Egypt, but the international community continues to ignore it, says Teresa Mayr.
Journalists demonstrate in Cairo on Press Freedom Day [Mahmoud Khaled]
On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, the international community should have turned its attention to Egypt. The freedom of the press seems to be declining in Egypt. Journalists who offend the government face arbitrary arrest and detention without charge.

Amnesty International estimates that currently at least 18 journalists are being held in jail in Egypt. Since June 2013 at least six have been killed while covering protests. These deaths were results of actions taken by security forces or of clashes that had erupted between demonstrators.

The spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry dismissed Amnesty International's accusations as "politicised nonsense" and added that Journalists were not being targeted.

Nevertheless on the World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, Egypt ranks number 158 out of 180 countries, followed by Pakistan and Kazakhstan. This index reflects the situation of journalists, media outlets and internet writers in each country.

Egypt ranks 158 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders.

According to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, 63 journalists have been jailed in Egypt during 2014.

The Lawyers for Democracy Initiative recorded 98 violations against the freedom of press, media and creativity in 2014.

Most of these violations came in form of physical attacks, bans on coverage, detention and arrest as well as censorship, ban and confiscation. Highlighting the critical state of press freedom in the country.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists have been killed in Egypt since February 2011. On 9 March 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists addressed a letter to President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi calling on the Egyptian government to respect the freedom of the press.

Although the Committee welcomed the release on bail of the two al-Jazeera journalists, it remained critical of the current situation of the freedom of the press, calling Egypt one of the leading jailers of journalists.

While the arrests of the three al-Jazeera Journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, unleashed an international public outcry, many journalists detained or arrested in Egypt do not get this kind of worldwide media attention.

On Press Freedom Day Ahram Online reported that a journalist, who worked for the daily el-Dostor, had been arrested and three laptops and three mobile phones had been confiscated.

Amnesty International reported other attacks against journalists and criticised the lack of evidence. Among them were five journalists of the daily al-Masry al-Youm, who faced criminal investigation after publishing an article on corruption and human rights violations by the security forces. The former head of the Youm7 online news outlet and member of Egypt's Press Syndicate was arrested in November 2014 at the Cairo Airport. There are more cases.

The prison conditions in Egypt are described as highly problematic. In a letter published by Amnesty International, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, a photojournalist also known as "Shawkan", reported on his situation in prison: "I share a cell that measures three by four metres with 12 other political prisoners. We have no access to sun or fresh air for days or weeks at a time. I am a photojournalist, not a criminal. My indefinite detention is psychologically unbearable. Not even animals would survive in these conditions."

Since he has been arrested documenting the dispersal of Rabaa al-Adawiya protest in which Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 1,000 people lost their lives, Abu Zeid has spent over 500 days in prison.

In another letter published on Deutsche Welle, Shawkan asked: "Where are the world leaders who demonstrated in Paris in protest against the killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, demanding the right of freedom of expression and freedom of the press?"