New York, August 16, 2012--President Mohamed Morsi's government and allies are pushing back against critical news coverage, suppressing critical journalists and state-run newspapers, putting a journalist on trial, and attacking three journalists on the street, according to news reports.
"This is a troubling backward step that Egypt's newly elected President Mohamed Morsi should not be taking," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We urge President Morsi to reverse this course immediately and demonstrate his commitment to press freedom."
Several journalists have reported suppression at the state-run newspaper Al-Akhbar. The newspaper was among a number of prominent state-run dailies at which new editors-in-chief had been appointed by the Egyptian upper house of parliament, also known as the Shura Council, on August 7, according to news reports. The Shura Council's move was seen as a way for Morsi's government, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, to place regime sympathizers in powerful positions to control media coverage. Several private newspapers ran blank columns on August 9 in protest of the appointments, news reports said.
Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, prominent weekly columnist for Al-Akhbar and outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, told news outlets on Thursday that his weekly column had been stopped, according to news reports. The journalist said that Mohamed Hassan el-Banna, the paper's new editor-in-chief, was trying to implement a policy that would remove from Al-Akhbar's roster any writers who were critical of the Brotherhood, the reports said.
Youseef el-Qaeed, a prominent Egyptian writer and novelist who frequently writes for Al-Akhbar, told the online news website Ahram Online that the newspaper refused to publish his latest article that criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for attacking journalists on August 12. El-Banna denied banning al-Qaeed's article and said the daily had not received an article from the journalist, according to news reports.
Abla al-Roweini, a daily columnist for Al-Akhbar, told Ahram Online that on August 9 the newspaper asked her to tone down her criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood in her column. When al-Roweini refused, insisting that the article run in its entirety, she received no response, and the next day, Al-Akhbar was published without her column, she told Ahram Online.
Local news outlets reported on Wednesday that Al-Akhbar announced it would cancel the newspaper's daily column called "Free Opinions." El-Qaeed and Abdel Meguid were both writers for the column, which meant they could no longer write for the newspaper, the reports said.
Meanwhile, the Cairo prosecutor's office said on Monday that Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Dustour, would be tried for insulting the president, according to news reports. Afifi is charged with attempting to "undermine and destabilize" Egypt by publishing "false information" about Morsi, according to news reports. On August 11, a Cairo court ordered the confiscation of several editions of Al-Dustour over a front-page editorial calling Morsi a "fascist" and asking the army to "defend the civil state," news reports said. On Sunday, a Cairo court issued a travel ban for him, news reports said. The journalist's trial date is set for August 23.
On August 8, three journalists were attacked during a demonstration by protesters with pro-Morsi posters, according to news reports. The demonstrators were calling for private satellite broadcaster Al-Faraeen, known for its anti-Morsi commentaries, to be taken off the air and were also protesting what they called media corruption in front of Egypt's Media Production City, according to news reports. The Media Production City is a large complex on the outskirts of Cairo where several media outlets have been built. News accounts reported that the protesters were also preventing guests from entering the complex.
Protesters attacked the car of Youssef al-Hosiny, a radio and television presenter who hosts a program on the private satellite broadcaster ONTV, and tried to prevent him from entering the complex, al-Hosiny said on his show. News accounts reported that the car of Amr Adeeb, a television host for the private satellite broadcaster Orbit, was also attacked by protesters on the same night, but did not offer details.
Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of the private daily Youm7, said protesters holding pro-Morsi banners threw stones at his car and smashed his windows and mirrors as he tried to enter the complex, according to news reports. Salah filed a formal complaint against the Freedom and Justice Party and accused its leaders of inciting the attack against him, the reports said.
In a statement on the Muslim Brotherhood's website, the Freedom and Justice Party condemned the attacks on the journalists and denied any involvement.
- For more data and analysis on Egypt, visit CPJ's Egypt page here.