In Egypt, journalists face prosecution, attacks, detention

The editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Watan, Magdy el-Galad, and a reporter for the paper, Ahmed el-Khatib, were referred to a criminal court on May 8, 2013, for publishing a “false report that could disturb public peace,” according to news reports.

Al-Watan had published a story in February 2013 detailing a list of 100 assassination targets, including critical journalists. The list had been found during an investigation into a terrorist cell whose members had been arrested the same month and were being prosecuted.

El-Galad and el-Khatib were given a court date without being summoned for investigation, and without the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate being told of the prosecution, which is in violation of the law, according to Said Abu Zeid, a lawyer for the syndicate. Abu Zeid said he later met with the prosecutor and asked him to follow the law and officially alert the syndicate, but the prosecutor declined, news reports said.

Negad Boraie, a lawyer for Al-Watan, said the prosecution was part of an ongoing campaign against the paper because of its critical stance toward President Mohamed Morsi.

The paper has been subjected to other legal complaints in recent months. In January, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil filed a case against Al-Watan, accusing the paper’s editor-in-chief and a reporter, Mohamed Barakat, of “disturbing the public peace” in connection with its report on a meeting between the prime minister and police officers who were on strike. The case was postponed to September 2013 at Al-Watan‘s request, news reports said.

In an unrelated episode, several journalists were assaulted and briefly detained outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo on May 6, 2013, while they were covering a protest staged by anti-Morsi activists, according to news reports and local journalists. The activists were celebrating Egyptian Easter by throwing eggs into the palace, the reports said.

Six journalists were detained for four hours. Waleed Salah, a reporter for Vito online newspaper, told CPJ that the police verbally and physically assaulted them and kept them in vans for 45 minutes before taking them to the police station. He said police seized their phones, IDs, cameras, and laptops, and copied the information from the journalists’ laptops. Salah posted his testimony on Vito‘s website.

The journalists, including Sherine el-Kourdy, a reporter for Akhbar El-Yom, and Al-Watan‘s reporter Essam Raafat and photographer Ibrahim Ahmed, were badly beaten by police, according to news reports. A video published by Vito shows Ahmed being pushed to the ground and hit by soldiers.

The camera of one journalist, Ahmed Bashera, a press photographer for Maser Al-Arabiya website, was confiscated, and the equipment of Ahmed Fadl, correspondent for Al-Nahar TV, was destroyed, according to news reports.