The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) highlighted several examples of media crackdown in a statement issued Monday reacting to comments made by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi claiming that Egypt’s media and press are free.
“Look at the press and media in Egypt and you will find that people talk as they please. It is true,” the president said in the interview with Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) during his visit to Lisbon last week.
Meanwhile, CPJ responded: “In Egypt last week a journalist was barred from travel without official explanation, [and] a reporter was accused of criminal defamation over a 2015 investigation on child prostitution. An appeal date was also set for the Press Syndicate leaders who were sentenced this month to two years in prison.”
CPJ mentioned the travel ban TV presenter Amr El-Leithy was faced with last Thursday, while he was reportedly attempting to leave Cairo International airport on a family trip.
According to CPJ, a lawsuit was filed against El-Leithy accusing him of inciting towards the government, after broadcasting on his show a video of a tuk-tuk driver angrily criticising the country.
The report also mentioned the case of Al-Tahrir newspaper’s reporter Rabie Al-Saadany, who “appeared before prosecutors on 20 November on a charge of criminal defamation over an article on child prostitution,” after which he was released.
CPJ said charges were brought against Al-Saadany by parliamentary member Essam Edris, whose relative was linked to a prostitution ring in the Al-Tahrir reporter’s article.
The trial of Press Syndicate president Yehia Qalash and senior board members Gamal Abdul Reheem and Khaled El-Balshy, who were sentenced on 19 November to two years in jail over charges of harbouring wanted suspects, was also mentioned by CPJ in the report.
Al-Sisi’s first ever comment on the Press Syndicate crisis, which broke out in May, occurred during the same interview with RTP. He claimed that the case was unrelated to press freedom.
In the meantime, human rights organisations such as the Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI) and the Journalists Against Torture Observatory (JATO) have listed the names of dozens of journalists and media workers currently imprisoned, in the hope that some of them would be featured on the next presidential pardons list.