A new human rights report revealed that authorities have violated journalists’ rights at least 658 times during the first year of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidency.
The report, which is entitled “Press and media freedoms: Forbidden rights in Sisi’s first year in presidency,” was released by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms on Tuesday, and focused on violations committed between June 8, 2014 and May 31, 2015. According to the report, the number of violations reached a peak during November of last year, with 70 separate incidents reported.
Two hundred and fifty eight of the documented violations revolved around preventing journalists from doing their jobs, while other violations included verbal and physical assault, detention, arrests and imprisonment, as well as damaging and confiscating equipment, the banning press reports, and lawsuits against journalists.
The report revealed that the Interior Ministry was the main violator of press freedoms in Sisi’s first year of presidency, with 56 percent of the violations committed by police forces. Civilians came second with 32 percent of the violations, while 10 percent of the violations were committed by “government bodies.”
“It is notable that police forces were not the only ones violating journalists’ rights, but that many citizens also verbally and physically assaulted journalists and damaged their equipment. This is a direct result of the state’s discourse inciting people against journalists,” the report explained.
The report also documented the cases of nine detained journalists, as well as five journalists facing trial who have been released pending investigations.
A similar report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released in June revealed that at least 18 journalists are currently incarcerated in Egyptian jails – the highest number of media professionals to be detained since the organization started tracking arrests in the country in 1990.
“The threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of an atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics,” CPJ warned.
One prominent case of a journalist behind bars is that of freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, popularly known as Shawkan, who was arrested while covering the violent dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya protest in August 2013. Spending almost two years in prison without charges, Shawkan’s last hearing session was adjourned to August 17 after police refused to bring him to the courtroom for “security reasons.”
During his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry denied that journalists have been arrested while doing their jobs, adding that these journalists face trials for their alleged involvement in violence and membership in terrorist organizations.