Journalist shot dead covering clashes in Egypt

New York, March 28, 2014–An Egyptian journalist was shot dead in Cairo today while covering deadly clashes, according to news reports. Mayada Ashraf was a reporter for the daily Al-Dustour. She had covered previous protests for the paper, the reports said.

The clashes stemmed from nationwide demonstrations by Muslim Brotherhood members who were protesting Army Chief Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi’s announcement on Wednesday that he would resign from the army and run for president later this year.

Ashraf was shot in the head, according to news reports. A video by the news channel Masr Alarabia shows the journalist being carried away from the scene. Her most recent report from today’s clashes included a description of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. Al-Dustour is well-known for its criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

An editor at Al-Dustour, AbdelKader Ismael, told Al-Hayat TV that ambulances were initially unable to reach her body amid the clashes. He said there was no information yet about who had shot her.

Some pro-army outlets, including the news website Veto, accused Muslim Brotherhood supporters of shooting Ashraf, while some groups supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood said that thugs working for the police shot the journalist.

“We call on the Egyptian government to open an independent and impartial investigation into Mayada Ashraf’s killing,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “A journalist’s death should not be used to settle political scores–the focus should be on journalists’ right to safely cover events in Egypt.”

At least four other journalists have been killed covering clashes since the army ousted former President Mohamed Morsi, according to CPJ research.

In an unrelated development, Mohamed Aamer, a reporter for the Muslim Brotherhood’s daily Freedom and Justice newspaper, was released from prison on March 21, according to news reports. Firas al-Shamsan, a Yemeni freelance journalist, was released from jail on March 4, according to news reports. The trial for three Al-Jazeera journalists, who are accused of terrorism, has adjourned until March 31. They have been charged with “distorting the country abroad” and “fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood.” Egyptian authorities often use legal harassment and arbitrary detention as a means to silence critical journalists, according to CPJ research.