• Government is among the region’s worst oppressors of online expression.
• Several editors fined for reporting on the president and other sensitive topics.
3: Online journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2009.
Authorities followed familiar tactics to control news media, pursuing politicized court cases, imposing fines, using regulatory tools, and harassing journalists. With Egypt seeing a burgeoning community of journalistic bloggers, authorities moved aggressively to monitor and control online activity. At least three online journalists were jailed when CPJ conducted its annual census of imprisoned journalists on December 1.
THE PRESS: 2009
• Main Index
MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA
• Regional Analysis:
Human rights coverage spreads despite government pushback
• Israel, Occupied Palestinian Territories
• Other developments
In February, a judge in
After highly publicized
A principal in the Cairo News Company, which provides production services to news outlets such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC, won acquittal in a politicized prosecution, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. Nader Gohar, the company’s managing director, had faced charges of operating broadcasting equipment without authorization. The prosecution was thought to have been prompted by client Al-Jazeera’s coverage of 2008 labor protests in the northern industrial city of Al-Mahalla al-Kobra, which included footage of protesters tearing down a poster of Mubarak, CPJ research showed. Fined in 2008, Gohar won acquittal on appeal in 2009, defense attorney Khaled el-Deeb told CPJ.
With legal and financial
pressures facing traditional media, many Egyptian reporters turned to new media
tools such as blogs, the video-sharing site YouTube, and the micro-blog
Twitter. The government, in turn, has aggressively monitored online information
and harassed bloggers, CPJ found in a September special report, “Middle East Bloggers:
The Street Leads Online.” CPJ identified
Authorities also relied on Web-specific regulators such as the Directorate for Computer and Internet Crimes. Egyptian blogger Mostafa El Naggar wrote that the office has engaged in “relentless pursuit of bloggers and citizen journalists, invading their privacy, [and] hacking into their personal accounts.”
Internet traffic in
Blogger Dia’ Gad was
arrested in February and held incommunicado by state security agents after
writing critically about
Mosad Suleiman, known online as Mosad Abu Fagr, was still being held in late year despite his acquittal in February 2008 on trumped-up antistate charges. At least 13 judicial orders were issued directing that the journalist be released, but the Interior Ministry used the Emergency Law to circumvent the directives. Immediately after each order of release, the ministry countered with its own administrative order directing Suleiman’s continued detention. The provisions of the Emergency Law are such that the government can use the strategy an unlimited number of times. Suleiman wrote about social and political issues affecting the Bedouin community in Sinai on his blog, Wedna N’ish (We Want to Live).
Blogger Hani Nazeer Aziz, who wrote about Coptic minority issues, the state security apparatus, and local religious officials, was also being held in late year under the Emergency Law. Defense lawyers said they had been prevented from visiting Aziz on multiple occasions, and that their client had been mistreated in prison. All of the material on Aziz’s blog had been deleted by an unidentified third party.
Abdel Karim Suleiman,
known online as Karim Amer, was serving a four-year prison term imposed in
February 2007, when a court in
Other online journalists
faced harassment. Wael Abbas, a popular and award-winning blogger, was briefly
detained at the
Conflicts within the
profession continued to hinder press freedom. In October, the Egyptian
Journalists Syndicate considered whether to expel Hala Mustafa, editor-in-chief
of the quarterly magazine Democratiya, after she met with Israeli Ambassador Shalom
Foreign journalists have also been targeted. In October, authorities prevented Swedish freelance reporter Per Bjorklund from entering the country, claiming that he was planning to orchestrate a pro-Palestinian protest, according to news reports. Bjorklund denied any intention of participating in or planning a protest. News reports said the action may have been motivated by Bjorklund’s extensive coverage of Egyptian labor issues.