Egyptian government attempts to suppress the media

Egyptian government attempts to suppress the media

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

New York, August 16, 2012--President Mohamed Morsi's government and allies are pushing back against critical news coverage, suppressing critical journalists and state-run newspapers, putting a journalist on trial, and attacking three journalists on the street, according to news reports.

"This is a troubling backward step that Egypt's newly elected President Mohamed Morsi should not be taking," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We urge President Morsi to reverse this course immediately and demonstrate his commitment to press freedom."

Several journalists have reported suppression at the state-run newspaper Al-Akhbar. The newspaper was among a number of prominent state-run dailies at which new editors-in-chief had been appointed by the Egyptian upper house of parliament, also known as the Shura Council, on August 7, according to news reports. The Shura Council's move was seen as a way for Morsi's government, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, to place regime sympathizers in powerful positions to control media coverage. Several private newspapers ran blank columns on August 9 in protest of the appointments, news reports said.

Still getting used to seeing the word "regime" be used about the Morsi administration… Has a good overview of the recent media clampdowns. It's too soon to tell whether this is the beginning of a new pattern of repression or isolated events related to the current atmosphere in Egypt (rumors of coup plots, bad old habits of editors trying to ingratiate themselves to the new regime, etc.) or a more consistent and deliberate policy. I doubt that Egypt's fairly vibrant media and its very active Journalists' Syndicate is going to take this lying down, however — indeed it may spur sharper action to change regulations on the media.

One particularly worrying thing ahead: there have been reports that the Constituent Assembly, which is still going ahead with the process of drafting a new constitution despite much uncertainty about its status, is said to have drafted a new version of Article 178 of the previous constitution, which it is using as a base model. A friend emailed the text, which could include prison penalties for publishing "information that damages Egypt's reputation": 

"either by faslifying the truth or providing an innacurate/untruthful description or by highlighting inapropriate sights (?) or by any other means"

سواء اكان ذلك بمخالفة الحقيقة او اعطاء وصف غير صحيح او بابراز مظاهر غير لائقة او باية طريقة اخرى

This is very much Mubarak-era mentality. 

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.