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Media in Egypt ‘battered by an array of repressive tactics’: CPJ

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New report details a plethora of abuses journalists faced in 2013

Activists and journalists take part in a demonstration in support of the Al-Jazeera staff, who have been detained by Egyptian authorities since last year, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on February 8, 2014. Egyptian prosecutors on January 31 referred to trial 20 journalists allegedly working for Al-Jazeera after accusing them of portraying Egypt as being in a state of "civil war" and "airing false news." (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)

Activists and journalists take part in a demonstration in support of the Al-Jazeera staff, who have been detained by Egyptian authorities since last year, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on February 8, 2014. 

Press freedom watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a report Tuesday detailing the extraordinary hardships faced by journalists working in Egypt in 2013.

The scathing report indicts both the Mohamed Morsi administration and the military-backed government that deposed it for making Egypt an inhospitable environment for journalists.

“The deeply polarised 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,” read the report.

Six journalists were killed in 2013, up from one in 2012 and two in 2011, CPJ reported. In contrast, no journalists were killed in Egypt in the line of duty between 1993 and 2010. The death toll made Egypt the third most dangerous country for journalists in 2013 after Syria and Iraq.

Violations against the press were rampant during the 90 days following Morsi’s 3 July ouster, with 71 reported violations against the press. Of the 71 violations, 32 journalists were detained, 27 were assaulted or otherwise detained, nine offices were raided, and there were three cases of news teams’ equipment being confiscated.

The report also documented more than 600 criminal defamation cases against journalists during Morsi’s tenure, far outpacing the number of similar cases under former president Hosni Mubarak.

“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,’” read the report.

In a separate report released on Tuesday, the CPJ listed Egypt among countries where journalism suffered in the past year.

“Foreign news organisations seen as unsympathetic to the military regime, including CNN and Al Jazeera, were systematically harassed,” the CPJ wrote. “Journalists who deviate from the official narrative are in danger of censorship, arrest, prosecution, or assault. There’s a sense among reporters that while Morsi’s efforts to intimidate the press into silence largely failed, military censorship is starting to take root.”

In 2013, Egypt was one of the top ten jailors of journalists in the world, according to the CPJ census of imprisoned journalists. Since the report was released in December, several other journalists have been detained.

Press freedom in Egypt has come under fire in 2014 as well. Twenty journalists—nine of whom are employed by Al Jazeera – will go on trial on 20 February, facing a litany of charges relating to terrorism and spreading false news. The international community has come out in droves to condemn the charges, which the US State Department described as spurious.  The United Nations, the White House, the European Union, the CPJ, and Amnesty International have also weighed in, demanding that the charges be dropped and all detained journalists be released immediately.

About the author

Aaron T. Rose

Aaron T. Rose is an American journalist in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_T_Rose

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