The deeply polarized Egyptian press was battered by an array of repressive tactics throughout 2013, from the legal and physical intimidation during the tenure of former President Mohamed Morsi to the widespread censorship by the military-backed government that replaced him. Morsi and his supporters pushed through a repressive constitution, used politicized regulations, pursued retaliatory criminal cases, and employed physical intimidation of critics. After his ouster, the military-led government shut down pro-Morsi news media and obstructed coverage supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and the toppled president. Within three months, at least five journalists were killed and dozens detained without charges. At least 10 television stations and news outlets were raided, and at least five journalists remained behind bars when CPJ conducted its annual prison census. In September, the interim president appointed a 50-member committee to amend Egypt's 2012 Constitution. The committee produced a draft that would ease several press restrictions, including limiting the scope of criminal prosecution of journalists. The draft will be put to a referendum in mid-January 2014.
At least six journalists were killed in Egypt this year, an unprecedented number that includes journalists who worked for the government, the opposition, and, for the first time in Egypt, international news organizations.
Egypt ranked third after Syria and Iraq in terms of the number of journalists killed in 2013, according to CPJ research.
At least five journalists were being held by Egyptian authorities when CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1. The detainees included two journalists with Al-Jazeera, and others from TV stations supportive of former President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The number does not include the dozens of journalists who were detained without charge and released.
After President Morsi was ousted on July 3, 2013, the military-supported government detained, assaulted, and harassed dozens of journalists considered critical of the government or sympathetic to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities also raided news outlets and confiscated press equipment.
CPJ documented at least 71 attacks on the press from July to October under the military government.
In March 2013, Dina Abdel Fattah, a host for the talk show "Al Shaab Yoreed" (People Want) and editor-in-chief of the economic magazine Amwal Al-Ghad, told CPJ that at least 300 legal complaints had been filed against her. She was accused by Morsi supporters of "supporting terrorism," in connection with an on-air interview with a member of Black Bloc, an Egyptian youth movement that had waged violent protests against Morsi.
Abdel Fattah was interrogated by the Egyptian public prosecutor about her on-air interviews, and then resigned from her employer, Al-Tahrir television, citing lack of support.
Abdel Fattah's case is one among many. In April 2013, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights issued a report stating that it had documented at least 600 criminal defamation cases, far outpacing the rate of such cases during Hosni Mubarak's tenure as president.
Soon after Morsi took office, Muslim Brotherhood supporters unleashed a wave of criminal complaints against media critics on vague allegations of "spreading wrong information," "disrupting peace," "insulting the president," and "insulting religion."
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1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.