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Another journalist sentenced to prison

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Suez court gives Ahmed Rahman Shaheen three years

Journalist Abdel Rahman Shaheen was sentenced to three years in prison and a EGP 10,000 fine on Tuesday.

Charges against Shaheen, the Suez-based journalist, include inciting and participating in violence, according to state-run MENA.

Shaheen previously worked for pro-Islamist television channel Misr 25, and for the official newspaper of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, both of which have been closed by the government since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

State media reports claim Shaheen was a correspondent for Al-Jazeera, but Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Qatar-based network, said that Al-Jazeera has not had any staff in Egypt since the arrest of three of its journalists on 29 December.

Shaheen, who was initially arrested on the streets of Suez on 9 April, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), had his detention renewed in late May for the fourth time.

Ahmed al-Ajos, another journalist for the FJP’s newspaper, was arrested from his home in Menufiya, a city in the Nile Delta, the same day Shaheen was detained. Shaimaa Abul Kheir, a spokeswoman for the CPJ, said that al-Ajos remained in detention as well.

The situation for journalists has been deteriorating rapidly since the 3 July ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi. On Monday, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to lengthy prison sentences. Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and correspondent Peter Greste each received seven years in a maximum security prison. Producer Baher Mohamed was handed a 10 year sentence.

 

Six other Al-Jazeera staff members and one journalist unaffiliated with the Qatar-based network were tried in absentia. Each was given the maximum sentence of 10 years, as prescribed by law.

Nations across the world reacted with shock and disbelief. United States Secretary of State called the sentencing “chilling” and “draconian,” while United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague criticized the “unacceptable procedural shortcomings.”

On 14 January FJP reporter Samah Ibrahim was arrested while covering a pro-Morsi demonstration that ended in clashes with security forces. She and nine other people were sentenced to one year hard labour for illegal assembly, taking part in a political protest, breach of public security, endangering citizens, stalling traffic, assaulting people, as well destroying public and private property. The conviction was strongly condemned by Egypt’s Press Syndicate.

Ten journalists have been killed while working in Egypt since the January 2011 toppling of Hosni Mubarak. Six journalists have died since 3 July 2013, and 15 are currently being held in detention.

Particularly journalists seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood have been targeted. The government closed Misr 25 immediately following the ouster, while the FJP newspaper was shut down in December—the same month the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation.

The CPJ and Reporters Without Borders have called President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to address press freedom and human rights violations when he assumes office.

Adopted in January of this year, Article 70 of Egypt’s constitution guarantees the freedom of the press, while Article 71 prohibits government censorship of newspapers and media outlets except in “time of war or general mobilisation”.

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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