‘Repressive tactics’ still threaten Egypt press freedom, says watchdog

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‘Repressive tactics’ continue to threaten press freedom in Egypt, a media watchdog has warned, on the same day that two journalists were killed during a bloody crackdown in Cairo.

Egypt saw serious breaches of media freedom under both army rule and the government of former president Mohammad Mursi, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

Hopes of a “new era of freedom of speech” after Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011 have been dashed, the CPJ said in its report “On the Divide: Press Freedom at Risk in Egypt”.

The New York-based nonprofit organization said Egypt’s media faced “legal and physical intimidation” under the rule of former president Mursi, while the press faces “wide censorship” under today’s military-backed government.

“All those governments have not really reformed or changed the policies, law and tactics that Mubarak’s regime used,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, told Al Arabiya. “It undermines the reason for why people see Egypt as being stuck in its transition towards democracy.”

During the first nine months of Mursi’s presidency, hundreds of criminal defamation cases were brought against reporters in Egypt, the CPJ said.

“Mursi waged a campaign against rivals. He filed hundreds of cases against critical voices,” said Mansour.

The CPJ also documented at least 78 assaults against journalists from August 2012 until Mursi’s fall, including the fatal shooting of reporter Al-Hosseiny Abou Deif.

Following Mursi’s ouster, the new army-led government “imposed wide censorship against pro-Mursi news outlets and restricted coverage of Muslim Brotherhood activities,” the CPJ said.

The Egypt 25 television channel, run by the Muslim Brotherhood, and others affiliated with the political movement were closed in July by army authorities.

“The military is enforcing widespread censorship… There wasn’t any court order to shut down the channels,” said Mansour.

The CPJ called on the Egyptian army to “immediately end all censorship without condition”. It noted that the authorities had expressed an intention to create a journalistic code of ethics, which it said would be a condition of lifting existing censorship.

The CPJ report was released on the same day that at least 124 people were killed as Egyptian police moved in on protest camps in support of Mursi, according to an AFP tally.

Mick Deane, a cameraman from Britain’s Sky News, and the Dubai-based reporter Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz were among the dead.

Reports emerged of journalists being obstructed from covering today’s events in Egypt. Journalists from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency were briefly detained, and had their camera footage and photos seized by security forces, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Mansour said the CPJ was aware of cases of killings, beatings and detentions of journalists during today’s unrest.

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