A criminal court has detained Dostour Editor-in-Chief Islam Afifi for insulting President Mohamed Morsy and adjourned his case until 16 September.
Afifi’s detention before a ruling has created a row.“This came as a shock to all of us,” said AbeerSaady, Vice-Chairperson of the Press Syndicate, “It’s not acceptable for a regime that calls itself ‘the second republic’ to permit the detention of journalists.”
“The rules for detaining someone before a sentencing does not apply to the case of Islam Afifi,” asserted GamalEid, human rights lawyer and founder of the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
Detention before a ruling indicates that the court deems the accused a possible threat to society or the integrity of the case, a measure that was not applied to policemen accused of killing protesters over the past year.
While the laws by which Afifi is being charged have been in place since prior to the revolution, Eid claims his organisation has found 16 violations to freedom of the press in Egypt over the last two weeks, a rate the country hasn’t seen over the last 10 years.
“There is no such charge as ‘insulting the President’ in any democratic country,” Eid told the Daily News Egypt, “We believe the current laws are being used to intimidate and scare journalists in Egypt.”
Saady noted that the Press Syndicate called for an emergency meeting in response to the developments and will approach the general prosecutor and magistrate. She also said the syndicate has worked to change the “insulting the president” law and will continue pressuring the government to do away with laws that restrict freedom of the press.
The Press Syndicate managed to pressure the government in 1996 to reform its media laws to prohibit detention of journalists. However, criminal penalties for insulting the president and other high-ranking officials persisted.
In a Cairo speech during his presidential campaign, Morsy said “I pledge the freedom of media will never be touched, and no opinion will be prevented nor any paper will be shut down within the law and professional oath among journalists.”