Egypt has dropped two places on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The organization reports that Egypt, which now ranks 161 out of 180 states, is “One of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.”
In 2016 Egypt was ranked 159th out of 180 states.
Norway, Sweden and Finland topped the 2017 list with Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea ranking last.
The index notes that since the January 25 revolution, 10 journalists have been killed without investigation, stating that “the situation of media freedom in Egypt is extremely worrying.”
It adds that at least two dozen journalists are currently in prison: “Some spend years in detention without being charged or tried. Others face long jail terms or even life imprisonment in iniquitous mass trials.”
While the 2017 country report does not specify how many journalists are currently imprisoned, the 2016 Press Freedoms Index claims that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has jailed at least 27 journalists and media personnel during his time in office.
Criticism is also leveled at the arrest of journalists on the basis of their alleged links with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
The media-watchdog writes that Egypt has “orchestrated a ‘Sisification’ of the media,” additionally noting that under the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Law journalists are obliged to report only the official version of ‘terrorist’ attacks, and that both journalists and human rights defenders are currently banned from much of the Sinai region.
RSF claims that media legislation passed in December 2016, establishing three press and media regulatory agencies, is “expected to increase government control of the media.” These are the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, the National Press Authority and the National Broadcasting Authority.
Further media restrictions have been imposed on Egyptian media since Sisi announced his intention to implement a three-month state of emergency in the wake of the Palm Sunday bombings targeting two Coptic churches on April 9.
Following the president’s initial announcement, authorities confiscated an issue of the privately owned Al-Bawaba newspaper, which blamed the Interior Ministry for the church attacks. Sisi has since issued three presidential decrees establishing state-appointed boards for the authorities outlined in the December 2016 legislation.
In 2016 the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 259 media workers were behind bars, a record high, listing Egypt as the third worst offender with 25 journalists in prison, preceded by China with 38 and Turkey with 81.
In a statement issued in March 2017, CPJ denounced the continued detention of journalists in Egyptian prisons, ahead of Sisi’s April meeting with US President Donald Trump.