Most accused of belonging to Muslim Brotherhood; more than half worked online
New York, June 25, 2015–The number of journalists in Egyptian jails is the highest since the Committee to Protect Journalists began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990, according to a new census of imprisoned journalists in Egypt released today. Of the 18 journalists behind bars as of June 1, more than one-third are sentenced to life in prison.
“Repeated pledges by Egyptian authorities that press freedom would be respected and even strengthened have never sounded more hollow than they do today,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. “Under cover of anti-terrorism measures, the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is using harsh methods to crush critical voices.”
The journalists have been arrested on charges ranging from inciting violence and participating in illegal protests to membership in illegal groups. In particular, the government abuses anti-terrorism laws to link journalists with the Muslim Brotherhood, listed in Egypt as a terror organization. The move is part of a global trend documented in CPJ’s 2015 edition of Attacks on the Press, which shows how journalists around the world are caught between anti-terrorism laws and terrorism itself.
More than half of the journalists on CPJ’s census worked online, showing how the Internet, once considered the safest place for free speech and independent reporting in Egypt, is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Due to heavy restrictions on journalists in Egypt, entire regions, especially Sinai, are under-reported. CPJ also found that police and prosecutors abuse their powers of pretrial detention. The case of freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, or “Shawkan,” is emblematic of the practice. He has been held for almost two years in the infamous Tora prison without charge, and no trial date has been set, according to the Freedom for Shawkan campaign. Conditions for journalists in Egyptian prisons are harsh, with reports of deplorable living quarters, beatings, and torture.
CPJ’s prison census includes profiles and case details for each of the 18 detainees.
Note to Editors:
Copies of the census and interviews available are available in Arabic and English.
For social media, CPJ suggests using the hashtags #FreeThePress and #Egypt
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.