The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its latest report that Egypt is second to China as the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with 23 journalists currently in jail, eight of whom were imprisoned in 2015.
Most of the journalists jailed in Egypt, according to CPJ’s database, belong to news outlets owned by Islamists, after Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013 by the Armed Forces.
CPJ slammed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for using national security and terrorism as the pretext for a crackdown on dissent.
“Perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt, now the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide,” the report stated.
CPJ maintained only a handful of countries are systematically targeting journalists worldwide. 10 of the 28 countries in the report have only one journalist currently in prison. The report asserted none are imprisoned in the Americas for work-related reasons.
One of the high profile cases in Egypt in 2015 is that of freelance journalist and political sociology researcher Ismail Alexanrani, who was arrested in November and faces charges of spreading false news and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization. Alexandrani is being interrogated by state security prosecution, mostly for his research in Sinai on alleged military violations against civilians in the troubled peninsula.
Head of the Mada Foundation for Media Development, Hisham Gaafar, is also among CPJ’s list of jailed Egyptian journalists this year. He was arrested after national security raided his organization’s office and confiscated their equipment. He also faces accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and receiving illegal foreign funding from abroad.
Alexandrian correspondent with the independent Al-Bedaya news website, Youssef Shabaan, has been serving a 15-month prison sentence since May. His case dates back to 2013, when he was covering a protest in front of Alexandria Court.
Founder of the Electronic Media Syndicate, Abu Bakr Khallaf, was also arrested this year for belonging to the Brotherhood and illegally receiving funds from the group to finance the syndicate’s activities.
The trial of photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid (known as Shawkan) commenced on Saturday December 12, after 800 days of pre-trial detention. He faces charges of illegal gathering, the show of force, illegal arms possession, premeditated murder, and deliberate vandalism of public and private property. The court was adjourned until February 6.
CPJ’s list also includes Hassan al-Qabbany, who freelances for Brotherhood-affiliated websites, Alexandrian-based journalist Abdel Rahman Yakout, who works for the local Karmouz website, Mohamed al-Batawy, who works for Akhbar al-Youm and Masr al-Arabiya website, and Abdel Rahman Abu Ouf, who works for the Islamist Al-Masreyoun newspaper.