January 13, 2014
His Excellency Adly Mahmoud
Office of the President
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 391 1441
Dear President Mansour,
As an international press freedom organization, we are writing to express our concern about the climate of press freedom in Egypt.
We believe that all Egyptian citizens should be guaranteed the right to freedom of speech and freedom of information. Yet at least seven journalists are being held behind bars in the country today, unable to do their work in this critical time in Egypt's history. We condemn the ongoing imprisonment of the journalists and urge the Egyptian government to immediately release them.
Since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July, Egyptian security forces have been given free rein to target anyone deemed by the government to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood or who work for outlets in countries that criticized Morsi's ouster. This has led to unprecedented numbers of anti-press violations in Egypt. Since July 2013, at least five journalists have been killed, 45 journalists assaulted, and 11 news outlets raided. Since that time, at least 44 journalists have also been detained without charge in pretrial procedures, which, at times, have gone on for months.
The most recent detentions include those of at least four journalists affiliated with Al-Jazeera English. Authorities accused them of conducting "illegal meetings" with the Muslim Brotherhood and illegally broadcasting news that harmed "domestic security." They have not been officially charged.
One of these journalists, Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, is being held in a windowless room in Cairo's notorious Scorpion Prison. His pre-existing shoulder injury has been exacerbated by his incarceration, but he has been refused medical assistance, according to news reports. Fahmy's family member told CPJ that he has said, "In Egypt right now, you are guilty until proven otherwise."
Local and international press freedom organizations have also voiced their concern about journalists jailed in Egypt. The Freedoms Committee, part of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, as well as the Washington-based National Press Club, issued statements today condemning the arrests. Another statement, released today and signed by correspondents and editors from more than 30 international media organizations, called for the immediate release of all jailed journalists in Egypt and highlighted concerns about the ability of the press to do work in the country without fear of imprisonment.
We believe that the Egyptian government should protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens, and we call on authorities to release all journalists being held behind bars in Egypt. Journalists everywhere should be able to work openly and freely without fear of reprisal.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Supreme Court House
26th of July Street
Egyptian Ambassador to the United States
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008