The Egyptian authorities must put an end to their relentless crackdown on media and ensure the free flow of information, which is particularly critical now during the COVID-19 public health emergency, said Amnesty International today.
Dozens of journalists have been arbitrarily detained on spurious ‘terrorism’-related charges or had their workplaces raidedPhilip Luther
The organization has published a new overview of Egypt’s assault on journalists and other media workers to mark World Press Freedom Day, including evidence of government censorship, interference in journalists’ newsrooms, and the blocking of publications and websites.
“Since 2016, the authorities in Egypt have subjected dozens of journalists and other media workers to a catalogue of violations just for doing their jobs or expressing their views. Dozens of journalists have been arbitrarily detained on spurious ‘terrorism’-related charges or had their workplaces raided,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director
“The Egyptian authorities must allow journalists to carry out their work free from fear of reprisal. They must also immediately and unconditionally release all journalists who are detained solely for carrying out their work or exercising their right to freedom of expression, and investigate all allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment of journalists.”
In March, security forces arrested an Egyptian journalist for questioning official statistics in relation to the spread of COVID-19 on his personal Facebook page. He was held at an undisclosed location without any contact with the outside world for nearly a month before being brought in front of prosecutors to face accusations of “spreading false news” and “joining a terrorist organization”.
The Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all journalists who are detained solely for carrying out their work or exercising their right to freedom of expression, and investigate all allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment of journalists.Philip Luther
In the past few years, at least five media outlets have been raided or shut down and hundreds of websites, including local or international news sites, have been blocked. At least 37 journalists are currently behind bars for exercising their right to freedom of expression, 20 of them directly in connection with their journalistic work.
Amnesty International has spoken to 32 people including journalists, their lawyers, relatives and friends. The overview highlights how Egyptian authorities are quick to label any criticism of the authorities as “misuse” of social media platforms and any information countering the state narrative as “false news”.
The National Security Agency (NSA), a specialized police force, regularly interrogates journalists accused of “terrorism”-related offences about their content, sources and funding, demonstrating the authorities’ treatment of any peaceful opposition or criticism as “terrorism”.
The Egyptian authorities have made it very clear that anyone who challenges the official narrative will be severely punishedPhilip Luther
Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s ascent to power, attacks on journalists and media have soared, especially against outlets perceived to support the Muslim Brotherhood. However, following critical media coverage in response to their decision to cede the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in 2016, the authorities appear to have adopted more pervasive tactics in a bid to stamp out all forms of criticism. This sustained attack on freedom of expression in the media comes against the backdrop of the acquisition of most private Egyptian media platforms by companies affiliated to the General Intelligence Service (GIS) since 2017, according to investigations by the independent media outlet Mada Masr.
“The Egyptian authorities have made it very clear that anyone who challenges the official narrative will be severely punished,” said Philip Luther
“The Egyptian authorities must end all forms of censorship, harassment and intimidation of journalists, and ease their stranglehold on the public’s access to information.”