Abuses against journalists and newspapers are “still ongoing” and “systematic”, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said on Monday, in criticism of the recent decision to shut down the Freedom and Justice Party’s newspaper.
AFTE said the decision to shut down the newspaper is illegal and described it as a “blatant assault on freedom of expression”.
The Ministry of Interior had announced on Thursday the shutdown of the paper, which was published on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm. The decision came one day after the government labelled the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
“There has been no judicial decision banning the Freedom and Justice Party, so its headquarters or newspaper cannot be shutdown,” AFTE said, adding that Egyptian law stipulates that only the Political Parties Affairs Committee has the right to shut down a partisan newspaper.
AFTE said this decision had come in spite of the fact that the newspaper was licensed and distributed legally, while describing the shutdown as an aggression on the rights of journalists working at the newspaper.
On Saturday, journalists from the newspaper protested outside the Press Syndicate calling on the syndicate to intervene and reverse the decision. The Press Syndicate has condemned the shutdown of the paper, stating that the paper is produced and distributed on behalf of a “legitimate and active political party”.
The Ministry of Interior, in coordination with state owned Al-Ahram, which prints the newspaper, implemented the decision and confiscated the printed issue for Thursday, 26 December.
AFTE said the decision is an unprecedented disregard of the Press Law, which immunises the press in the face of the executive authority by giving the power to confiscate or revoke the licensing of newspapers to the judicial authority “in exceptional cases”.
On Sunday night, four journalists working for Al Jazeera were detained on charges of publishing information “harmful to national security” and meeting with members of the Brotherhood.
Journalists are also facing increasing risks of violence by “demonstrators, security forces and ordinary citizens”. At least eight journalists were assaulted while covering protests on Friday, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information said.
In its annual report on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists named Syria, Iraq and Egypt as the year’s most deadly environments for journalists.